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Trade, Technology, and the Great Divergence

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  • Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke
  • Ahmed Rahman
  • Alan M. Taylor

Abstract

Why did per capita income divergence occur so dramatically during the 19th century, rather than at the outset of the Industrial Revolution? How were some countries able to reverse this trend during the globalization of the late 20th century? To answer these questions, this paper develops a trade-and-growth model that captures the key features of the Industrial Revolution and Great Divergence between a core industrializing region and a peripheral and potentially lagging region. The model includes both endogenous biased technological change and intercontinental trade. An Industrial Revolution begins as a sequence of more unskilled-labor-intensive innovations in both regions. We show that the subsequent co-evolution of trade and directed technologies can create a delayed but inevitable divergence in demographics and living standards—the peripheral region increasingly specializes in production that worsens its terms of trade and spurs even greater fertility increases and educational declines. Allowing for eventual technological diffusion between regions can mitigate and even reverse divergence, spurring a reversal of fortune for peripheral regions.

Suggested Citation

  • Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke & Ahmed Rahman & Alan M. Taylor, 2019. "Trade, Technology, and the Great Divergence," NBER Working Papers 25741, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25741
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    Cited by:

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    2. Diego Comin & Martí Mestieri, 2018. "If Technology Has Arrived Everywhere, Why Has Income Diverged?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 137-178, July.
    3. Bolhuis, Marijn, 2019. "Catch-Up Growth and Inter-Industry Productivity Spillovers," MPRA Paper 94730, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Leslie Hannah, 2013. "A Global Census of Corporations in 1910," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-878, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F11 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Neoclassical Models of Trade
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies
    • F62 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Macroeconomic Impacts
    • F63 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Economic Development
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity
    • O41 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - One, Two, and Multisector Growth Models

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