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More Machines, Better Machines...Or Better Workers?

  • James Bessen

    ()

    (Research on Innovation, Boston University School of Law)

How much of the rapid growth in labor productivity in nineteenth century cotton weaving arose from capital-labor substitution and how much from technical change? Using an engineering production function and detailed information on inventions, I find that factor substitution accounts for little growth. However, much of the growth and most of the apparent labor-saving bias arose not from inventions, but from improved labor quality — better workers spent less time monitoring the looms. The inventions themselves were almost technically neutral because innovations in general purpose technologies were capital-saving. Labor quality played a critical role in the persistent association between economic growth and capital deepening in this important sector.

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Paper provided by Research on Innovation in its series Working Papers with number 0803.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:roi:wpaper:0803
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.researchoninnovation.org

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