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From Growth Spurts to Sustained Growth


  • Gonçola Monteiro
  • Alvaro Pereira


This paper presents new evidence on the existence of pre-industrial growth spurts and the nature of economic growth during the transition from Malthus to Solow. In this research, growth spurts are an intrinsic feature of the economy, but throughout history their effect on standards of living is mostly temporary. Sustained rises in living standards only become sustained when there are complementarities between the triple engines of growth of technological development, human capital and the organization of the workplace. In Malthusian economies, most technologies were basic and only required straightforward knowledge or human capital, and thus the skill-technology complementarity did not play a role in their development. As a consequence, most technological developments in Malthusian economies generated growth spurts that did not become sustained, although there was a temporary increase in standards of living. However, the increasing complexity of the epistemic knowledge base reported by the historical literature meant that investments in applied technology were progressively more significant, enhancing the role of human capital. After a certain threshold of the knowledge base was surpassed, more and more complex applied technologies were developed, and growth spurts became permanent features of the economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Gonçola Monteiro & Alvaro Pereira, 2006. "From Growth Spurts to Sustained Growth," Discussion Papers 06/24, Department of Economics, University of York.
  • Handle: RePEc:yor:yorken:06/24

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2002. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1133-1191.
    2. Jones Charles I., 2001. "Was an Industrial Revolution Inevitable? Economic Growth Over the Very Long Run," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 1(2), pages 1-45, August.
    3. Galor, Oded, 2005. "From Stagnation to Growth: Unified Growth Theory," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 171-293 Elsevier.
    4. Goodfriend, Marvin & McDermott, John, 1995. "Early Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 116-133, March.
    5. Gary D. Hansen & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Malthus to Solow," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1205-1217, September.
    6. Grantham, George, 1999. "Contra Ricardo: On the macroeconomics of pre-industrial economies," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 199-232, August.
    7. Nico Voigtländer & Joachim Voth, 2005. "Why England? Demand, growth and inequality during the Industrial Revolution," Economics Working Papers 857, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Dec 2006.
    8. Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, 2006. "The Galor-Weil Model Revisited: A Quantitative Exercise," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(1), pages 116-142, January.
    9. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Bar & Oksana Leukhina, 2010. "The role of mortality in the transmission of knowledge," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(4), pages 291-321, December.
    2. Jakob Madsen & James Ang & Rajabrata Banerjee, 2010. "Four centuries of British economic growth: the roles of technology and population," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(4), pages 263-290, December.

    More about this item


    Growth spurts; unified growth theory; sustained economic growth;

    JEL classification:

    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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