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Measuring Our Ignorance, One Book at a Time: New Indicators of Technological Change, 1909-1949

  • Michelle Alexopoulos
  • Jon Cohen

We present new indicators of U.S. technological change for the period 1909-49 based on information in the Library of Congress’ catalogue. We use these indicators to estimate the connections between technological change and economic activity, and to investigate the relationship between fluctuations in innovative activity and the Great Depression. Although we do find links between technological change, output and productivity, our results suggest that the slowdown in technological progress in the early 1930s did not contribute significantly to the Great Depression. On the other hand, the remarkable acceleration in innovations after 1934 did play a role in the recovery.

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File URL: http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/public/workingPapers/tecipa-349.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Toronto, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number tecipa-349.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: 23 Feb 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-349
Contact details of provider: Postal: 150 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario
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  1. Neville Francis & Valerie A. Ramey, 2004. "The Source of Historical Economic Fluctuations: An Analysis using Long-Run Restrictions," NBER Working Papers 10631, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Bresnahan, Timothy F. & Raff, Daniel M. G., 1991. "Intra-Industry Heterogeneity and the Great Depression: The American Motor Vehicles Industry, 1929–1935," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(02), pages 317-331, June.
  3. Lee E. Ohanian, 2002. "Why did productivity fall so much during the Great Depression?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr.
  4. Paul Beaudry & Franck Portier, 2006. "Stock Prices, News, and Economic Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1293-1307, September.
  5. John W. Kendrick, 1961. "Productivity Trends in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kend61-1, May.
  6. Michelle Alexopoulos, 2011. "Read All about It!! What Happens Following a Technology Shock?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1144-79, June.
  7. Christina D. Romer, 1988. "The Great Crash and the Onset of the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 2639, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum, 1989. "Unit Roots in Real GNP: Do We Know, and Do We Care?," NBER Working Papers 3130, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Harrison, Sharon G. & Weder, Mark, 2006. "Did sunspot forces cause the Great Depression?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(7), pages 1327-1339, October.
  10. John Shea, 1999. "What Do Technology Shocks Do?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1998, volume 13, pages 275-322 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Zvi Griliches, 1990. "Patent Statistics as Economic Indicators: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 3301, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 1999. "The Great Depression in the United States from a neoclassical perspective," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-24.
  13. Peter L. Rousseau & Boyan Jovanovic, 2004. "General Purpose Technologies," 2004 Meeting Papers 103, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  14. repec:fth:harver:1473 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. Burbidge, John & Harrison, Alan, 1985. "An historical decomposition of the great depression to determine the role of money," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 45-54, July.
  16. Alexander J. Field, 2003. "The Most Technologically Progressive Decade of the Century," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1399-1413, September.
  17. David Greasley & Jakob B. Madsen, 2006. "Investment and Uncertainty: Precipitating the Great Depression in the United States," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 73(291), pages 393-412, 08.
  18. Alexopoulos, Michelle, 2008. "Extra! Extra! Some positive technology shocks are expansionary!," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 153-156, December.
  19. Christopher A. Sims, 1980. "Comparison of Interwar and Postwar Business Cycles: Monetarism Reconsidered," NBER Working Papers 0430, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Evsey D. Domar, 1962. "On Total Productivity and All That," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 597.
  21. Susanto Basu & John Fernald & Miles Kimball, 2004. "Are Technology Improvements Contractionary?," NBER Working Papers 10592, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Field, Alexander J., 2006. "Technological Change and U.S. Productivity Growth in the Interwar Years," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(01), pages 203-236, March.
  23. Greasley, David & Madsen, Jakob B. & Oxley, Les, 2001. "Income Uncertainty and Consumer Spending during the Great Depression," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 225-251, April.
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