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How Much Did the Liberty Shipbuilders Learn? New Evidence for an Old Case Study

Author

Listed:
  • Peter Thompson

    (University of Houston)

Abstract

This paper uses previously unavailable historical records to show that several assumptions central to a learning by doing explanation of productivity growth in the construction of Liberty ships during World War II are mistaken. Impressive increases in output per worker recorded at one of the largest shipyards in the program, Calship, are shown to be strongly associated with increases in capital intensity and with a reduction in quality, where the latter is measured by the probability of a ship developing serious fractures that threatened the lives of its crew. Capital deepening and quality change, in conjunction with changes in production technologies and capacity utilization, account for virtually all the increase in labor productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Thompson, 1997. "How Much Did the Liberty Shipbuilders Learn? New Evidence for an Old Case Study," Development and Comp Systems 9712001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpdc:9712001
    Note: Type of Document - Acrobat; prepared on IBM PC; to print on HP; pages: 30; figures: included
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    File URL: https://econwpa.ub.uni-muenchen.de/econ-wp/dev/papers/9712/9712001.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. K. J. Arrow, 1971. "The Economic Implications of Learning by Doing," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: F. H. Hahn (ed.), Readings in the Theory of Growth, chapter 11, pages 131-149, Palgrave Macmillan.
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    6. Boyan Jovanovic & Yaw Nyarko, 1995. "A Bayesian Learning Model Fitted to a Variety of Empirical Learning Curves," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(1995 Micr), pages 247-305.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic Growth Learning by doing; Liberty ships;

    JEL classification:

    • N6 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights

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