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The Anglo-German Industrial Productivity Paradox, 1895-1938: A Restatement and a Possible Resolution


  • Albrecht Ritschl


Recent research on international productivity comparisons with historical data has encountered large discrepancies between benchmark comparisons and time series extrapolations from other benchmarks. Broadberry and Burhop (2005) have recently argued that for Hoffmann’s (1965) widely accepted time series for German industrial output, there is no such productivity paradox, while for a revision of that series recently suggested by Ritschl (2004), the discrepancy between the Anglo-German benchmark and the time series projection is considerable. Attempting to reconcile the time series evidence and the productivity benchmarks, they discard the revised series in favor of the original, disregarding mounting evidence on its lacking reliability. The present paper restates this productivity paradox and proposes a possible resolution. We draw on recent archival discoveries by Fremdling and Staeglin (2003) and Fremdling (2005) that confirm the revisions to the Hoffmann series. We also draw on recent advances in the reconstruction of a German industry census of 1936, and argue that the productivity paradox is largely the consequence of mismeasurement in all versions of the German series. Correcting for the omissions, much of the Anglo-German productivity paradox disappears.

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  • Albrecht Ritschl, 2006. "The Anglo-German Industrial Productivity Paradox, 1895-1938: A Restatement and a Possible Resolution," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2006-048, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:hum:wpaper:sfb649dp2006-048

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fremdling Rainer, 2009. "German Machine Building: A New Benchmark before World War I," Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte / Economic History Yearbook, De Gruyter, vol. 50(2), pages 243-246, December.
    2. Broadberry, Stephen, 2003. "Relative Per Capita Income Levels in the United Kingdom and the United States since 1870: Reconciling Time-Series Projections and Direct-Benchmark Estimates," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(03), pages 852-863, September.
    3. Broadberry, S N & Fremdling, Rainer, 1990. "Comparative Productivity in British and German Industry 1907-37," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 52(4), pages 403-421, Special I.
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    More about this item


    productivity; benchmark comparisons; Britain; Germany;

    JEL classification:

    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N60 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - General, International, or Comparative

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