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From Socialist Showcase to Mezzogiorno? Lessons on the Role of Technical Change from East Germany's Post-World War II Growth Performance

  • Wolfgang Keller

In this paper we emphasize the contribution of technical change, broadly defined, towards productivity growth in explaining the relative East Germany-West Germany performance during the post-World War II era. We argue that previous work was excessively focused on physical capital investments determining productivity differentials, which consequently led to an overestimation of the East German performance during the Socialist era, and an overly pessimistic assessment of the East German prospects of catching up with West Germany during the post-reunification era. We show, first, that the rates of technical change in the manufacturing industries of East German states were significantly below those in Western states, helping to account for the fact that East Germany was not the socialist showcase for which it was frequently taken before German reunification. Second, we demonstrate that the rates of technical change in the East German states have been considerably higher than those in the West since German reunification. This suggests that the Mezzogiorno prediction for East Germany--that it will stay persistently behind West Germany as does Italy's South relative to its North--, based on an analysis of the need for physical capital accumulation alone, will prove too pessimistic.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6079.

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Date of creation: Jul 1997
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Publication status: published as Journal of Development Economics, 2000.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6079
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  1. Barro, R.J. & Mankiw, N.G. & Sala-i-Martin, X., 1992. "Capital Mobility in Neoclassical Models of Growth," Papers 655, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  2. Burda, Michael C & Funke, Michael, 1993. "Eastern Germany: Can't We Be More Optimistic?," CEPR Discussion Papers 863, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  8. Boltho, Andrea & Carlin, Wendy & Scaramozzino, Pasquale, 1997. "Will East Germany Become a New Mezzogiorno?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 241-264, June.
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  13. Barro, Robert J & Sala-i-Martin, Xavier, 1992. "Convergence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(2), pages 223-51, April.
  14. George A. Akerlof & Andrew K. Rose & Janet L. Yellen & Helga Hessenius, 1991. "East Germany in from the Cold: The Economic Aftermath of Currency Union," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(1), pages 1-106.
  15. T. W. Swan, 1956. "ECONOMIC GROWTH and CAPITAL ACCUMULATION," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 32(2), pages 334-361, November.
  16. Hughes Hallett, A J & Ma, Yue, 1993. "East Germany, West Germany, and Their Mezzogiorno Problem: A Parable for European Economic Integration," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(417), pages 416-28, March.
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