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Was an Industrial Revolution Inevitable? Economic Growth Over the Very Long Run

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  • Charles I. Jones

Abstract

This paper studies a growth model that is able to match several key facts of economic history. For thousands of years, the average standard of living seems to have risen very little, despite increases in the level of technology and large increases in the level of the population. Then, after thousands of years of little change, the level of per capita consumption increased dramatically in less than two centuries. Quantitative analysis of the model highlights two factors central to understanding this history. The first is a virtuous circle: more people produce more ideas, which in turn makes additional population growth possible. The second is an improvement in institutions that promote innovation, such as property rights: the simulated economy indicates that the single most important factor in the transition to modern growth has been the increase in the fraction of output pain to compensate inventors for the fruits of their labor.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Was an Industrial Revolution Inevitable? Economic Growth Over the Very Long Run," NBER Working Papers 7375, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7375
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy & Robert Tamura, 1994. "Human Capital, Fertility, and Economic Growth," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 323-350 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • E10 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - General

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