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Long-Term Barriers to the International Diffusion of Innovations

  • Enrico Spolaore
  • Romain Wacziarg

We document an empirical relationship between the cross-country adoption of technologies and the degree of long-term historical relatedness between human populations. Historical relatedness is measured using genetic distance, a measure of the time since two populations' last common ancestors. We find that the measure of human relatedness that is relevant to explain international technology diffusion is genetic distance relative to the world technological frontier ("relative frontier distance"). This evidence is consistent with long-term historical relatedness acting as a barrier to technology adoption: societies that are more distant from the technological frontier tend to face higher imitation costs. The results can help explain current differences in total factor productivity and income per capita across countries.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17271.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2012. "Long-Term Barriers to the International Diffusion of Innovations," NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages 11 - 46.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17271
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