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Industrial Development and Long-Run Prosperity

Listed author(s):
  • Raphaël Franck
  • Oded Galor

This research explores the long-run effect of industrialization on the process of development. In contrast to conventional wisdom that views industrial development as a catalyst for economic growth, the study establishes that while the adoption of industrial technology was conducive to economic development in the short-run, it has had a detrimental effect on standards of living in the long-run. Exploiting exogenous geographic and climatic sources of regional variation in the diffusion and adoption of steam engines during the French industrial revolution, the research establishes that regions in which industrialization was more intensive experienced an increase in literacy rates more swiftly and generated higher income per capita in the subsequent decades. Nevertheless, intensive industrialization has had an adverse effect on income per capita, employment and equality by the turn of the 21st century. This adverse effect reflects neither higher unionization and wage rates nor trade protection, but rather underinvestment in human capital and lower employment in skilled-intensive occupations. These findings suggest that the characteristics that permitted the onset of industrialization, rather than the adoption of industrial technology per se, have been the source of prosperity among the currently developed economies that experienced an early industrialization. Thus, developing economies may benefit from the allocation of resources towards human capital formation rather than towards the promotion of industrial development.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23701.

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Date of creation: Aug 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23701
Note: EFG
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  1. Bresnahan, Timothy F. & Trajtenberg, M., 1995. "General purpose technologies 'Engines of growth'?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 83-108, January.
  2. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596.
  3. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2004. "From Physical to Human Capital Accumulation: Inequality and the Process of Development," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(4), pages 1001-1026.
  4. Nathan Rosenberg & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2009. "A General-Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late-Nineteenth-Century United States," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Studies On Science And The Innovation Process Selected Works of Nathan Rosenberg, chapter 6, pages 97-135 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
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  7. Oded Galor & Ömer Özak, 2016. "The Agricultural Origins of Time Preference," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 3064-3103, October.
  8. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2013. "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 469-530.
  9. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory and Comparative Development," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, issue 2, pages 9-21, April-Jun.
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  11. Jovanovic, Boyan & Rousseau, Peter L., 2005. "General Purpose Technologies," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 18, pages 1181-1224 Elsevier.
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