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The Global Diffusion of Ideas

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  • Francisco J. Buera
  • Ezra Oberfield

Abstract

We provide a tractable theory of innovation and technology diffusion to explore the role of international trade in the process of development. We model innovation and diffusion as a process involving the combination of new ideas with insights from other industries or countries. We provide conditions under which each country's equilibrium frontier of knowledge converges to a Frechet distribution, and derive a system of differential equations describing the evolution of the scale parameters of these distributions, i.e., countries' stocks of knowledge. In particular, the growth of a country's stock of knowledge depends only on its trade shares and the stocks of knowledge of its trading partners. We use the framework to quantify the contribution of bilateral trade costs to cross-sectional TFP differences, long-run changes in TFP, and individual post-war growth miracles.

Suggested Citation

  • Francisco J. Buera & Ezra Oberfield, 2016. "The Global Diffusion of Ideas," NBER Working Papers 21844, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21844
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mike Waugh & Christopher Tonetti & Jesse Perla, 2013. "Equilibrium Technology Diffusion, Trade, and Growth," 2013 Meeting Papers 484, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. König, Michael & Lorenz, Jan & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2016. "Innovation vs. imitation and the evolution of productivity distributions," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 11(3), September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nan Li & Ana Maria Santacreu & Jie Cai, 2016. "Knowledge Diffusion and Trade Across Countries and Sectors," 2016 Meeting Papers 650, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Pian Shu & Claudia Steinwender, 2019. "The Impact of Trade Liberalization on Firm Productivity and Innovation," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 39-68.
    3. Jose Maria Da-Rocha & Marina Mendes Tavares & Diego Restuccia, 2014. "Policy Distortions and Aggregate Productivity with Endogenous Establishment-Level Productivity," Working Papers tecipa-523, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    4. Foellmi, Reto & Hanslin Grossmann, Sandra & Kohler, Andreas, 2018. "A dynamic North-South model of demand-induced product cycles," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 63-86.
    5. Nelson Lind & Natalia Ramondo, 2019. "Global Innovation and Knowledge Diffusion," 2019 Meeting Papers 1364, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Fleisher, Belton M. & McGuire, William H. & Wang, Xiaojun & Zhao, Min Qiang, 2020. "Induced Innovation: Evidence from China's Secondary Industry," IZA Discussion Papers 13072, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Nelson Lind & Natalia Ramondo, 2018. "Trade with Correlation," NBER Working Papers 24380, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Santiago Caicedo, 2019. "Note on Idea Diffusion Models with Cohort Structures," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 86(342), pages 396-408, April.
    9. Gordon H. Hanson & Nelson Lind & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2015. "The Dynamics of Comparative Advantage," CESifo Working Paper Series 5622, CESifo.
    10. Javier Mejia, 2018. "Social Interactions and Modern Economic Growth," Working Papers 20180021, New York University Abu Dhabi, Department of Social Science, revised Sep 2018.
    11. Jie Cai & Nan Li & Ana Maria Santacreu, 2017. "Knowledge Diffusion, Trade and Innovation across Countries and Sectors," Working Papers 2017-029, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, revised 28 Feb 2020.
    12. Baum-Snow, Nathaniel & Henderson, J. Vernon & Turner, Matthew A. & Zhang, Qinghua & Brandt, Loren, 2020. "Does investment in national highways help or hurt hinterland city growth?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C).
    13. Jesse Perla & Christopher Tonetti, 2014. "Equilibrium Imitation and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(1), pages 52-76.
    14. Busch, Berthold & Matthes, Jürgen, 2016. "Ökonomische Konsequenzen eines Austritts aus der EU: Am Beispiel des Brexits," IW-Analysen, Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft (IW) / German Economic Institute, volume 112, number 112.
    15. Nelson Lind & Natalia Ramondo, 2018. "Trade with Correlation," 2018 Meeting Papers 627, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    16. Baum-Snow, Nathaniel & Henderson, J. Vernon & Turner, Matthew A. & Zhang, Qinghua & Brandt, Loren, 2020. "Does investment in national highways help or hurt hinterland city growth?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C).
    17. Nelson Lind & Natalia Ramondo, 2018. "Innovation, Knowledge Diffusion, and Globalization," NBER Working Papers 25071, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Naito, Takumi, 2017. "Growth and welfare effects of unilateral trade liberalization with heterogeneous firms and asymmetric countries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 167-173.
    19. Anderson, James E. & Larch, Mario & Yotov, Yoto V., 2019. "Trade and investment in the global economy: A multi-country dynamic analysis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 120(C).
    20. Tommaso Porzio, 2016. "Distance to the Technology Frontier and the Allocation of Talent," 2016 Meeting Papers 569, Society for Economic Dynamics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

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