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Changes in the world distribution of output-per-worker 1960-98: how a standard decomposition tells an unorthodox story

  • Paul Beaudry

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

  • Fabrice Collard

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

  • David A. Green

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

Why have some countries done so much better than others over the recent past? In order to shed new light on this issue, this paper provides a decomposition of the change in the distribution of output-per-worker across countries over the period 1960-98. The main finding of the paper is that most of the change in shape of the world distribution of income between 1960-1998 can be accounted for by a very substantial and previously unrecognized change in the parameters driving the growth process. In particular, we show that the role of capital deepening forces - that is the role of investment rates and population growth in affecting output - increased dramatically over the period 1978-98 versus 1960-78, and that this increase can account for almost all the observed changes in the world distribution. In contrast, we do not find any significant effects coming through non-linear convergence mechanisms or increased importance of education; both of which have played prominent roles in recent discussion of economic performance. Our results therefore highlight that the period 1978-98 was particularly advantageous to countries which strongly favored capital accumulation and hence suggests that research aimed at understanding recent differences in economic performances across countries needs to focus on explaining why the social returns to physical capital accumulation where abnormally high over the period 1978-98.

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Paper provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series IFS Working Papers with number W04/15.

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Length: 48 pp.
Date of creation: 04 Sep 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:04/15
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  1. Mikael Lindahl & Alan B. Krueger, 2001. "Education for Growth: Why and for Whom?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1101-1136, December.
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  3. Barro, Robert J. & Lee, Jong-Wha, 1993. "International comparisons of educational attainment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 363-394, December.
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  7. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  8. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  9. Steven N. Durlauf & Danny T. Quah, 1998. "The New Empirics of Economic Growth," Working Papers 98-01-012, Santa Fe Institute.
  10. Ben S. Bernanke & Refet S. Gurkaynak, 2001. "Is Growth Exogenous? Taking Mankiw, Romer and Weil Seriously," NBER Working Papers 8365, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?," NBER Working Papers 6564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Charles I. Jones, . "On the Evolution of the World Income Distribution," Working Papers 97009, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  14. Paul Beaudry & Fabrice Collard, 2002. "Why has the Employment-Productivity Tradeoff among Industrialized Countries been so strong?," NBER Working Papers 8754, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Jeffrey A. Frankel & David Romer, 1996. "Trade and Growth: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 5476, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
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