IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/red/sed017/566.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?

Author

Listed:
  • Michael Webb

    (Stanford University)

  • John Van Reenen

    (Sloan School of Management, MIT)

  • Charles Jones

    (Stanford University)

  • Nicholas Bloom

    (Stanford)

Abstract

In many growth models, economic growth arises from people creating ideas, and the long-run growth rate is the product of two terms: the effective number of researchers and the research productivity of these people. We present a wide range of evidence from various industries, products, and firms showing that research effort is rising substantially while research productivity is declining sharply. A good example is Moore’s Law. The number of researchers required today to achieve the famous doubling every two years of the density of computer chips is more than 75 times larger than the number required in the early 1970s. Across a broad range of case studies at various levels of (dis)aggregation, we find that ideas — and in particular the exponential growth they imply — are getting harder and harder to find. Exponential growth results from the large increases in research effort that offset its declining productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Webb & John Van Reenen & Charles Jones & Nicholas Bloom, 2017. "Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?," 2017 Meeting Papers 566, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed017:566
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://economicdynamics.org/meetpapers/2017/paper_566.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Robert J. Gordon, 2016. "The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 10544.
    2. Benjamin F. Jones, 2009. "The Burden of Knowledge and the "Death of the Renaissance Man": Is Innovation Getting Harder?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 283-317.
    3. Ufuk Akcigit & Murat Alp Celik & Jeremy Greenwood, 2016. "Buy, Keep, or Sell: Economic Growth and the Market for Ideas," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 84, pages 943-984, May.
    4. Fernandez-Cornejo, Jorge, 2004. "The Seed Industry In U.S. Agriculture: An Exploration Of Data And Information On Crop Seed Markets, Regulation, Industry Structure, And Research And Development," Agricultural Information Bulletins 33671, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    5. Christopher Laincz & Pietro Peretto, 2006. "Scale effects in endogenous growth theory: an error of aggregation not specification," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 263-288, September.
    6. Nicolas Serrano-Velarde & Douglas Hanley & Ufuk Akcigit, 2012. "Back to Basics: Basic Research Spillovers, Innovation Policy and Growth," 2012 Meeting Papers 665, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. Daron Acemoglu & Pascual Restrepo, 2016. "The Race Between Machine and Man: Implications of Technology for Growth, Factor Shares and Employment," NBER Working Papers 22252, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Fuglie, Keith O. & Heisey, Paul W. & King, John L. & Day-Rubenstein, Kelly A. & Schimmelpfennig, David E. & Wang, Sun Ling, 2011. "Research Investments and Market Structure in the Food Processing, Agricultural Input, and Biofuel Industries Worldwide," Economic Research Report 120324, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    9. Michael Kremer, 1993. "Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 681-716.
    10. Li, Chol-Won, 2000. "Endogenous vs. Semi-endogenous Growth in a Two-R&D-Sector Model," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(462), pages 109-122, March.
    11. Huffman, Wallace E. & Evenson, Robert E., 1993. "Science for Agriculture: A Long Term Perspective," Staff General Research Papers Archive 10997, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    12. Richard Blundell & Rachel Griffith & John van Reenen, 1999. "Market Share, Market Value and Innovation in a Panel of British Manufacturing Firms," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(3), pages 529-554.
    13. Joonkyung Ha & Peter Howitt, 2007. "Accounting for Trends in Productivity and R&D: A Schumpeterian Critique of Semi-Endogenous Growth Theory," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(4), pages 733-774, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Giovanni Marin & Francesco Vona, 2017. "Finance and the Misallocation of Scientific, Engineering and Mathematical Talent," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2017-27, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    2. Hyuk-Soo Kwon & Jihong Lee & Sokbae (Simon) Lee & Ryungha Oh, 2017. "Knowledge spillovers and patent citations: trends in geographic localization, 1976-2015," CeMMAP working papers CWP55/17, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    3. Brian Lucking & Nicholas Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2018. "Have R&D Spillovers Changed?," NBER Working Papers 24622, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. repec:eee:ecolet:v:155:y:2017:i:c:p:89-91 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Wim Naudé & Paula Nagler, 2018. "Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Productivity in Germany, 1871-2015," SPRU Working Paper Series 2018-02, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
    6. Joshua L. Krieger & Danielle Li & Dimitris Papanikolaou, 2018. "Developing Novel Drugs," NBER Working Papers 24595, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2018. "The Reallocation Myth," Working Papers 18-19, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    8. Cozzi, Guido, 2017. "Combining semi-endogenous and fully endogenous growth: A generalization," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 89-91.
    9. Fabio Pieri & Michela Vecchi & Francesco Venturini, 2017. "Modelling the joint impact of R and D and ICT on productivity: A frontier analysis approach," DEM Working Papers 2017/13, Department of Economics and Management.
    10. repec:nbr:nberch:14007 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Ajay Agrawal & John McHale & Alexander Oettl, 2018. "Finding Needles in Haystacks: Artificial Intelligence and Recombinant Growth," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Artificial Intelligence: An Agenda National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Philippe Aghion, Antonin Bergeaud, Timo Boppart & Simon Bunel, 2018. "Firm Dynamics and Growth Measurement in France," Working papers 676, Banque de France.
    13. Philippe Aghion & Benjamin F. Jones & Charles I. Jones, 2018. "Artificial Intelligence and Economic Growth," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Artificial Intelligence: An Agenda National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Robert J. Gordon, 2018. "Why Has Economic Growth Slowed When Innovation Appears to be Accelerating?," NBER Working Papers 24554, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Erik Brynjolfsson & Daniel Rock & Chad Syverson, 2018. "Artificial Intelligence and the Modern Productivity Paradox: A Clash of Expectations and Statistics," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Artificial Intelligence: An Agenda National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Naudé, Wim & Nagler, Paula, 2017. "Technological Innovation and Inclusive Growth in Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 11194, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Razzak, Weshah, 2017. "International Productivity Growth Differentials Sectoral Analysis and Missing Productivity," MPRA Paper 84967, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 06 Mar 2018.
    18. Tommaso Ciarli & Alberto Marzucchi & Edgar Salgado & Maria Savona, 2018. "The Effect of R&D Growth on Employment and Self-Employment in Local Labour Markets," SPRU Working Paper Series 2018-08, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
    19. Jakub Growiec, 2018. "The Digital Era, Viewed From a Perspective of Millennia of Economic Growth," Working Papers 2018-034, Warsaw School of Economics, Collegium of Economic Analysis.
    20. repec:sls:ipmsls:v:33:y:2017:6 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Pietro Cova & Patrizio Pagano & Alessandro Notarpietro & Massimiliano Pisani, 2017. "Secular stagnation, R&D, public investment and monetary policy: a global-model perspective," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 1156, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:red:sed017:566. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Christian Zimmermann). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/sedddea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.