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Why Development Levels Differ: The Sources of Differential Economic Growth in a Panel of High and Low Income Countries

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  • Charles R. Hulten
  • Anders Isaksson

Abstract

Average income per capita in the countries of the OECD was more than 20 times larger in 2000 than that of the poorest countries of sub-Sahara Africa and elsewhere, and many of the latter are not only falling behind the world leaders, but have even regressed in recent years. At the same time, other low-income countries have shown the capacity to make dramatic improvements in income per capita. Two general explanations have been offered to account for the observed patterns of growth. One view stresses differences in the efficiency of production are the main source of the observed gap in output per worker. A competing explanation reverses this conclusion and gives primary importance to capital formation. We examine the relative importance of these two factors as an explanation of the gap using 112 countries over the period 1970-2000. We find that differences in the efficiency of production, as measured by relative levels of total factor productivity, are the dominant factor accounting for the difference in development levels. We also find that the gap between rich and most poor nations is likely to persist under prevailing rates of saving and productivity change. To check the robustness of these conclusions, we employ different models of the growth process and different assumptions about the underlying data. Although different models of growth produce different relative contributions of capital formation and TFP, we conclude that the latter is the dominant source of gap. This conclusion must, however, be qualified by the poor quality of data for many developing countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles R. Hulten & Anders Isaksson, 2007. "Why Development Levels Differ: The Sources of Differential Economic Growth in a Panel of High and Low Income Countries," NBER Working Papers 13469, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13469 Note: PR
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Barry P. Bosworth & Susan M. Collins, 2003. "The Empirics of Growth: An Update," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(2), pages 113-206.
    2. Caves, Douglas W & Christensen, Laurits R & Diewert, W Erwin, 1982. "Multilateral Comparisons of Output, Input, and Productivity Using Superlative Index Numbers," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(365), pages 73-86, March.
    3. Moses Abramovitz, 1956. "Resource and Output Trends in the United States Since 1870," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abra56-1, January.
    4. Moses Abramovitz, 1956. "Resource and Output Trends in the United States Since 1870," NBER Chapters,in: Resource and Output Trends in the United States Since 1870, pages 1-23 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Donghyun Oh & Almas Heshmati & Hans Lööf, 2012. "Technical change and total factor productivity growth for Swedish manufacturing and service industries," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(18), pages 2373-2391, June.
    2. Justin Yifu Lin, 2012. "From Flying Geese To Leading Dragons: New Opportunities and Strategies for Structural Transformation in Developing Countries," Global Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 3(4), pages 397-409, November.
    3. Gilad D. Aharonovitz, 2011. "Why Cannot Poor Countries Utilize Existing Knowledge? Expansion Of Firms And Human Capital Accumulation By Training," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 49(1), pages 108-121, January.
    4. Anders Isaksson, 2009. "The UNIDO World Productivity Database: An Overview," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 18, pages 38-50, Spring.
    5. Messinis, George & Ahmed, Abdullahi D., 2013. "Cognitive skills, innovation and technology diffusion," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 565-578.
    6. Hulten, Charles R., 2010. "Growth Accounting," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, Elsevier.
    7. Mitra, Arup & Sharma, Chandan & Véganzonès-Varoudakis, Marie-Ange, 2014. "Trade liberalization, technology transfer, and firms’ productive performance: The case of Indian manufacturing," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 1-15.
    8. Ronia Hawash & Guenter Lang, 2010. "The Impact of Information Technology on Productivity in Developing Countries," Working Papers 19, The German University in Cairo, Faculty of Management Technology.
    9. Hashmi, Aamir Rafique, 2007. "Intangible Capital, Barriers to Technology Adoption and Cross-Country Income Differences," MPRA Paper 5729, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Benos, Nikos & Karagiannis, Stelios & Karkalakos, Sotiris, 2015. "Proximity and growth spillovers in European regions: The role of geographical, economic and technological linkages," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 124-139.
    11. Malik, Kashif Zaheer & Ali, Syed Zahid & Khalid, Ahmed M., 2014. "Intangible capital in a real business cycle model," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 32-48.
    12. Cozza, C. & Rabellotti, R. & Sanfilippo, M., 2015. "The impact of outward FDI on the performance of Chinese firms," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 42-57.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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