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Book Translations as Idea Flows: The Effects of the Collapse of Communism on the Diffusion of Knowledge

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  • Ran Abramitzky
  • Isabelle Sin

Abstract

We use book translations as a new measure of international idea flows and study the effects of Communism's collapse in Eastern Europe on these flows. Using novel data on 800,000 translations and difference-in-differences approaches, we show that while translations between Communist languages decreased by two thirds with the collapse, Western-to-Communist translations increased by a factor of four and quickly converged to Western levels. Convergence was more pronounced in the fields of applied and social sciences, and was more complete in Satellite and Baltic than in Soviet countries. We discuss how these patterns help us understand how repressive institutions and preferences towards Western European ideas shaped the international diffusion of knowledge.

Suggested Citation

  • Ran Abramitzky & Isabelle Sin, 2014. "Book Translations as Idea Flows: The Effects of the Collapse of Communism on the Diffusion of Knowledge," NBER Working Papers 20023, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20023
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    Cited by:

    1. George J. Borjas & Kirk B. Doran, 2012. "The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(3), pages 1143-1203.
    2. George J. Borjas & Kirk B. Doran, 2015. "Cognitive Mobility: Labor Market Responses to Supply Shocks in the Space of Ideas," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(S1), pages 109-145.
    3. Cantoni, Davide & Yuchtman, Noam, 2013. "The political economy of educational content and development: Lessons from history," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 233-244.
    4. Ran Abramitzky, 2011. "Lessons from the Kibbutz on the Equality-Incentives Trade-Off," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 185-208, Winter.
    5. Orazbayev, Sultan, 2017. "International knowledge flows and the administrative barriers to mobility," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(9), pages 1655-1665.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration
    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • N70 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N74 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: 1913-
    • P20 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - General
    • P30 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - General
    • P51 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems
    • P52 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Studies of Particular Economies

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