IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/14809.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

When Does Labor Scarcity Encourage Innovation?

Author

Listed:
  • Daron Acemoglu

Abstract

This paper studies the conditions under which the scarcity of a factor (in particular, labor) encourages technological progress and technology adoption. In standard endogenous growth models, which feature a strong scale effect, an increase in the supply of labor encourages technological progress. In contrast, the famous Habakkuk hypothesis in economic history claims that technological progress was more rapid in 19th-century United States than in Britain because of labor scarcity in the former country. Similar ideas are often suggested as possible reasons for why high wages might have encouraged rapid adoption of certain technologies in continental Europe over the past several decades, and as a potential reason for why environmental regulations can spur more rapid innovation. I present a general framework for the analysis of these questions. I define technology as strongly labor saving if the aggregate production function of the economy exhibits decreasing differences in the appropriate index of technology, theta, and labor. Conversely, technology is strongly labor complementary if the production function exhibits increasing differences in theta and labor. The main result of the paper shows that labor scarcity will encourage technological advances if technology is strongly labor saving. In contrast, labor scarcity will discourage technological advances if technology is strongly labor complementary. I provide examples of environments in which technology can be strongly labor saving and also show that such a result is not possible in certain canonical macroeconomic models. These results clarify the conditions under which labor scarcity and high wages encourage technological advances and the reason why such results were obtained or conjectured in certain settings, but do not always apply in many models used in the growth literature.

Suggested Citation

  • Daron Acemoglu, 2009. "When Does Labor Scarcity Encourage Innovation?," NBER Working Papers 14809, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14809
    Note: LS
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14809.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-1037, October.
    2. Joseph Zeira, 1998. "Workers, Machines, and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1091-1117.
    3. Daron Acemoglu, 2003. "Cross-Country Inequality Trends," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages 121-149, February.
    4. Daron Acemoglu & Amy Finkelstein, 2008. "Input and Technology Choices in Regulated Industries: Evidence from the Health Care Sector," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(5), pages 837-880, October.
    5. Daron Acemoglu & Philippe Aghion & Leonardo Bursztyn & David Hemous, 2012. "The Environment and Directed Technical Change," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 131-166, February.
    6. Daron Acemoglu & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2001. "Productivity Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 563-606.
    7. Aghion, Philippe & Howitt, Peter, 1992. "A Model of Growth through Creative Destruction," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(2), pages 323-351, March.
    8. Allen,Robert C., 2009. "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521868273, October.
    9. Hellwig, Martin & Irmen, Andreas, 2001. "Endogenous Technical Change in a Competitive Economy," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 101(1), pages 1-39, November.
    10. Daron Acemoglu, 1998. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change and Wage Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1055-1089.
    11. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Directed Technical Change," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 781-809.
    12. Richard G. Newell & Adam B. Jaffe & Robert N. Stavins, 1999. "The Induced Innovation Hypothesis and Energy-Saving Technological Change," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 941-975.
    13. Frances Stewart, 1978. "Technology and Underdevelopment," Palgrave Macmillan Books, Palgrave Macmillan, edition 0, number 978-1-349-15932-1, November.
    14. Alberto Alesina & Joseph Zeira, 2006. "Technology and Labor Regulations," NBER Working Papers 12581, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Adam B. Jaffe et al., 1995. "Environmental Regulation and the Competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturing: What Does the Evidence Tell Us?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 132-163, March.
    16. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1994. "Comparing Equilibria," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 441-459, June.
    17. Daron Acemoglu, 2007. "Equilibrium Bias of Technology," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(5), pages 1371-1409, September.
    18. Ethan Lewis, 2005. "Immigration, Skill Mix, and the Choice of Technique," Working Papers 05-04, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    19. Alwyn Young, 1998. "Growth without Scale Effects," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(1), pages 41-63, February.
    20. Jones, Charles I, 1995. "R&D-Based Models of Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 759-784, August.
    21. David Popp, 2002. "Induced Innovation and Energy Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 160-180, March.
    22. 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.
    23. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213.
    24. Segerstrom, Paul S & Anant, T C A & Dinopoulos, Elias, 1990. "A Schumpeterian Model of the Product Life Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1077-1091, December.
    25. Peter Howitt, 1999. "Steady Endogenous Growth with Population and R & D Inputs Growing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(4), pages 715-730, August.
    26. Revesz, Richard L. & Stavins, Robert N., 2007. "Environmental Law," Handbook of Law and Economics, in: A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell (ed.), Handbook of Law and Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 8, pages 499-589, Elsevier.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Casey, Gregory, "undated". "Energy Efficiency and Directed Technical Change: Implications for Climate Change Mitigation," 2017 Annual Meeting, July 30-August 1, Chicago, Illinois 259959, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    2. Capolupo, Rosa, 2009. "The New Growth Theories and Their Empirics after Twenty Years," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal (2007-2020), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), vol. 3, pages 1-72.
    3. Raphael Auer & Philip Sauré, 2011. "Spatial Competition in Quality, Demand Induced Innovation, and Schumpeterian Growth," DEGIT Conference Papers c016_067, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
    4. T. Gries & R. Grundmann & I. Palnau & M. Redlin, 2017. "Innovations, growth and participation in advanced economies - a review of major concepts and findings," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 293-351, April.
    5. Gancia, Gino & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2005. "Horizontal Innovation in the Theory of Growth and Development," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 3, pages 111-170, Elsevier.
    6. Daron Acemoglu & Veronica Guerrieri, 2008. "Capital Deepening and Nonbalanced Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(3), pages 467-498, June.
    7. Guido Cozzi & Silvia Galli, 2009. "Upstream Innovation Protection: Common Law Evolution and the Dynamics of Wage Inequality," Working Papers 2009_20, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
    8. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Directed Technical Change," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 781-809.
    9. Volker Grossmann & Thomas Steger, 2007. "Growth, Development, and Technological Change," CESifo Working Paper Series 1913, CESifo.
    10. Afonso, Oscar, 2008. "The impact of government intervention on wage inequality without scale effects," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 351-362, March.
    11. Kevin H. O’Rourke & Ahmed S. Rahman & Alan M. Taylor, 2012. "Trade, Technology and the Great Divergence," Departmental Working Papers 35, United States Naval Academy Department of Economics.
    12. Witajewski-Baltvilks, Jan & Verdolini, Elena & Tavoni, Massimo, 2017. "Induced technological change and energy efficiency improvements," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(S1), pages 17-32.
    13. Daron Acemoglu, 2007. "Equilibrium Bias of Technology," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(5), pages 1371-1409, September.
    14. Jan Witajewski-Baltvilks & Elena Verdolini & Massimo Tavoni, 2015. "Directed Technological Change and Energy Efficiency Improvements," Working Papers 2015.78, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    15. Afonso, Oscar & Leite, Rui, 2010. "Learning-by-doing, technology-adoption costs and wage inequality," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 1069-1078, September.
    16. Philippe Aghion & Antoine Dechezleprêtre & David Hémous & Ralf Martin & John Van Reenen, 2016. "Carbon Taxes, Path Dependency, and Directed Technical Change: Evidence from the Auto Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(1), pages 1-51.
    17. Jerzmanowski, Michal & Tamura, Robert, 2019. "Directed technological change & cross-country income differences: A quantitative analysis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 141(C).
    18. Guido Cozzi & Silvia Galli, 2014. "Sequential R&D and blocking patents in the dynamics of growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 183-219, June.
    19. Li, Jianqiang & Shan, Yaowen & Tian, Gary & Hao, Xiangchao, 2020. "Labor cost, government intervention, and corporate innovation: Evidence from China," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 64(C).
    20. Hollanders, Hugo & Weel, Bas ter, 1999. "Skill-Biased Technical Change: On Endogenous Growth, Wage Inequality and Government Intervention," Research Memorandum 013, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C65 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Miscellaneous Mathematical Tools
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14809. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.