Zvi Griliches and the Economics of Technology Diffusion: Adoption of Innovations, Investment Lags, and Productivity Growth
This paper considers the scientific legacy of Zvi Griliches’ contribution to the economic analysis of the diffusion of technological innovations. It first examines the relationship between Griliches’ pioneering empirical work on the introduction and adoption of hybrid corn and the subsequent development of theoretical models and econometric research on the microeconomic determinants of diffusion. Next, it formalizes the way that structural conditions at the micro-level shape the dynamics of diffusion phenomena observable at the level of industries and even sectors, and are reflected in the lagged behavior of aggregate investment in capital-embodied innovations. Thirdly, it extends the latter perspective to make explicit the micro-to-macro relationships affecting the total factor productivity (TFP) growth rate. These three dynamic phenomena --diffusion, lags, and TFP growth – were the topics of Griliches’ three most widely cited among journal articles, respectively. Directing attention to the microeconomics of technology adoption underlying the ‘transitions’ during which the diffusion of major innovations generate surges in innovation embodying capital formation, and waves in the TFP growth, figures prominently among Griliches’ important contributions to modern economics.
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