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Growing, Shrinking, and Long Run Economic Performance: Historical Perspectives on Economic Development

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  • Stephen Broadberry
  • John Joseph Wallis

Abstract

Using annual data from the thirteenth century to the present, we show that improved long run economic performance has occurred primarily through a decline in the rate and frequency of shrinking, rather than through an increase in the rate of growing. Indeed, as economic performance has improved over time, the short run rate of growing has typically declined rather than increased. Most analysis of the process of economic development has hitherto focused on increasing the rate of growing. Here, we focus on understanding the forces making for a reduction in the rate of shrinking, drawing a distinction between proximate and ultimate factors. The main proximate factors considered are (1) structural change (2) technological change (3) demographic change and (4) the changing incidence of warfare. We conclude with a consideration of institutional change as the key ultimate factor behind the reduction in shrinking.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen Broadberry & John Joseph Wallis, 2017. "Growing, Shrinking, and Long Run Economic Performance: Historical Perspectives on Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 23343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23343
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    1. repec:bla:apacel:v:31:y:2017:i:2:p:19-29 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:4:p:965-:d:138129 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Inklaar, Robert & de Jong, Harmen & Bolt, Jutta & van Zanden, Jan, 2018. "Rebasing 'Maddison': new income comparisons and the shape of long-run economic development," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-174, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
    4. Bassino, Jean-Pascal & Broadberry, Stephen & Fukao, Kyoji & Gupta, Bishnupriya & Takashima, Masanori, 2017. "Japan and the Great Divergence, 730-1874," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 325, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O0 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - General
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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