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

  • Charles I. Jones

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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7375.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7375.

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Date of creation: Oct 1999
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Advances in Macroeconomics (The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics) Vol. 1: Iss. 2, Article 1 (June 2001): 1-45
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7375
Note: EFG
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  1. Gary D. Hansen & Edward C. Prescott, 1998. "Malthus to Solow," NBER Working Papers 6858, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Oded Galor & David N. Weil, 1998. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From the Malthusian Regime to the Demographic Transition," Working Papers 98-1, Brown University, Department of Economics, revised 19 Aug 1998.
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  5. Daron Acemoglu & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 1994. "Was Prometheus unbound by chance? Risk, diversification and growth," Economics Working Papers 98, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  6. Pritchett, Lant, 1995. "Divergence, big time," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1522, The World Bank.
  7. Baumol, William J, 1990. "Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive, and Destructive," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 893-921, October.
  8. Razin, Assaf & Ben-Zion, Uri, 1975. "An Intergenerational Model of Population Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(5), pages 923-33, December.
  9. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M & Tamura, Robert, 1990. "Human Capital, Fertility, and Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S12-37, October.
  10. Jones, Charles I, 1995. "R&D-Based Models of Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 759-84, August.
  11. Ronald Lee, 1980. "A Historical Perspective on Economic Aspects of the Population Explosion: The Case of Preindustrial England," NBER Chapters, in: Population and Economic Change in Developing Countries, pages 517-566 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Robert E. Lipsey, 1999. "Foreign Production by U.S. Firms and Parent Firm Employment," NBER Working Papers 7357, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Goodfriend, Marvin & McDermott, John, 1995. "Early Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 116-33, March.
  14. Paul M Romer, 1999. "Endogenous Technological Change," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2135, David K. Levine.
  15. Jacob Schoenhof, 1903. "History of the Working Classes and of Industry in France," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11, pages 416.
  16. Gary S. Becker, 1960. "An Economic Analysis of Fertility," NBER Chapters, in: Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries, pages 209-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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