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Leapfrogging: A Theory of Cycles in National Technological Leadership


  • Elise Brezis
  • Paul Krugman
  • Daniel Tsiddon


Much recent work has suggested that endogenous technological change tends to reinforce the position of the leading nations. Yet from time to time this leadership role shifts. We suggest a mechanism that explains this pattern of -leapfrogging- as a response to occasional major changes in technology. When such a change occurs, leading nations may have no incentive to adopt the new ideas; given their extensive experience with older technologies, the new ideas do not initially seem to be an improvement. Lagging nations, however, have less experience; the new techniques offer them an opportunity to use their lower wages, to break into the market. If the new techniques eventually prove to be more productive than the old, there is a reversal of leadership.

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  • Elise Brezis & Paul Krugman & Daniel Tsiddon, 1991. "Leapfrogging: A Theory of Cycles in National Technological Leadership," NBER Working Papers 3886, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3886
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 71-102, October.
    2. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. van de Klundert, Theo & Smulders, Sjak, 2001. "Loss of technological leadership of rentier economies: a two-country endogenous growth model," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 211-231, June.
    2. Robert J. Barro & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1994. "Quality Improvements in Models of Growth," NBER Working Papers 4610, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Hans W. Gottinger, 2001. "Technological Races in Global Industries (Technology Races)," CSEF Working Papers 62, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    4. Oded Galor & Omer Moav & Dietrich Vollrath, 2009. "Inequality in Landownership, the Emergence of Human-Capital Promoting Institutions, and the Great Divergence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 143-179.
    5. Brezis, Elise S & Krugman, Paul R, 1997. "Technology and the Life Cycle of Cities," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 2(4), pages 369-383, December.
    6. Mountford, Andrew, 1998. "Trade, convergence and overtaking," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 167-182, October.
    7. Simons, Alexandre, 2014. "How does technology transfer affect backward linkages? A motivating example theoretical analysis," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 94-105.
    8. Mountford, Andrew, 1999. "Trade Dynamics and Endogenous Growth: An Overlapping-Generations Analysis," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 66(262), pages 209-224, May.
    9. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby, 1995. "Present at the Revolution: Transformation of Technical Identity for a Large Incumbent Pharmaceutical Firm After the Biotechnological Breakthrough," NBER Working Papers 5243, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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