IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

A global decline in research productivity? Evidence from China and Germany


  • Böing, Philipp
  • Hünermund, Paul


In a recent paper, Bloom et al. (2020) find evidence for a substantial decline in research productivity in the U.S. economy during the last 40 years. In this paper, we replicate their findings for China and Germany, using detailed firm-level data spanning three decades. Our results indicate that diminishing returns in idea production are a global phenomenon, not just confined to the U.S.

Suggested Citation

  • Böing, Philipp & Hünermund, Paul, 2020. "A global decline in research productivity? Evidence from China and Germany," ZEW Discussion Papers 20-030, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:20030

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert J. Gordon, 2016. "The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 10544.
    2. Nicholas Bloom & Charles I. Jones & John Van Reenen & Michael Webb, 2020. "Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(4), pages 1104-1144, April.
    3. Aghion, Philippe & Howitt, Peter, 1992. "A Model of Growth through Creative Destruction," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(2), pages 323-351, March.
    4. Lant Pritchett & Lawrence H. Summers, 2013. "Asia-phoria meet regression to the mean," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov, pages 1-35.
    5. Stephan, Paula E., 2010. "The Economics of Science," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, in: Bronwyn H. Hall & Nathan Rosenberg (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 0, pages 217-273, Elsevier.
    6. Paula E. Stephan, 2010. "The Economics of Science - Funding for Research," ICER Working Papers 12-2010, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
    7. Diego Comin & Bart Hobijn, 2011. "Technology Diffusion and Postwar Growth," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2010, volume 25, pages 209-246, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Fred Gault (ed.), 2013. "Handbook of Innovation Indicators and Measurement," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 14427.
    9. Romer, Paul M, 1987. "Growth Based on Increasing Returns Due to Specialization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 56-62, May.
    10. Jones, Charles I, 1995. "R&D-Based Models of Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 759-784, August.
    11. Bettina Peters & Christian Rammer, 2013. "Innovation panel surveys in Germany," Chapters, in: Fred Gault (ed.), Handbook of Innovation Indicators and Measurement, chapter 6, pages 135-177, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    12. Boeing, Philipp & Mueller, Elisabeth, 2016. "Measuring patent quality in cross-country comparison," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 145-147.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Naudé, Wim & Nagler, Paula, 2022. "The Ossified Economy: The Case of Germany, 1870-2020," IZA Discussion Papers 15607, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Cauwels, Peter & Sornette, Didier, 2022. "Are ‘flow of ideas’ and ‘research productivity’ in secular decline?," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 174(C).
    3. Boxu Yang & Xielin Liu & Yuchen Gao & Langmei Zhu, 2023. "A research on the effectiveness of innovation policy for regional innovation under Chinese long-range plan," Science and Public Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(3), pages 491-508.
    4. Minniti, Maria & Naudé, Wim & Stam, Erik, 2023. "Is Productive Entrepreneurship Getting Scarcer? A Reflection on the Contemporary Relevance of Baumol's Typology," IZA Discussion Papers 16408, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Hajkowicz, Stefan & Sanderson, Conrad & Karimi, Sarvnaz & Bratanova, Alexandra & Naughtin, Claire, 2023. "Artificial intelligence adoption in the physical sciences, natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences and the arts and humanities: A bibliometric analysis of research publications from 1960-2021," Technology in Society, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).
    6. Rojko, Katarina & Lužar, Borut, 2022. "Scientific performance across research disciplines: Trends and differences in the case of Slovenia," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2).
    7. Boeing, Philipp, 2020. "Innovative China: R&D subsidies, patent measures, and productivity," ZEW Expert Briefs 20-15, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    8. Boeing, Philipp & Eberle, Jonathan & Howell, Anthony, 2022. "The impact of China's R&D subsidies on R&D investment, technological upgrading and economic growth," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 174(C).
    9. Li, Qing & Hu, Dezhuang & Li, Tang, 2022. "The innovation of family firms in China: New evidence from the China employer-employee survey," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).
    10. Henri Loubergé, 2021. "Tribute to Orio," The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance - Issues and Practice, Palgrave Macmillan;The Geneva Association, vol. 46(2), pages 293-300, April.
    11. Giovanni Abramo & Ciriaco Andrea D’Angelo & Ida Mele, 2022. "Impact of Covid-19 on research output by gender across countries," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 127(12), pages 6811-6826, December.
    12. Ziesemer, Thomas, 2022. "Mission-oriented R&D and growth of Japan 1988-2016," MERIT Working Papers 2022-034, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    13. Ho, Jerry & Hoang, Vincent & Wilson, Clevo, 2020. "Government R&D Subsidies and International Competitiveness of Labor-managed Firms," MPRA Paper 106896, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 09 Dec 2020.
    14. Hajkowicz, Stefan & Naughtin, Claire & Sanderson, Conrad & Schleiger, Emma & Karimi, Sarvnaz & Bratanova, Alexandra & Bednarz, Tomasz, 2022. "Artificial intelligence for science – adoption trends and future development pathways," MPRA Paper 115464, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Egeland, Jonathan, 2022. "The ups and downs of intelligence: The co-occurrence model and its associated research program," Intelligence, Elsevier, vol. 92(C).
    16. Wim Naudé, 2022. "From the entrepreneurial to the ossified economy," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(1), pages 105-131.
    17. Naudé, Wim & Nagler, Paula, 2021. "The Rise and Fall of German Innovation," IZA Discussion Papers 14154, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Callaghan, Christian William, 2021. "Growth contributions of technological change: Is there a burden of knowledge effect?," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 172(C).
    2. Growiec, Jakub, 2022. "R&D capital: An engine of growth," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 217(C).
    3. Wang, Shanchao & Alston, Julian M. & Pardey, Philip G., 2023. "R&D Lags in Economic Models," Staff Papers 330085, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.
    4. Gancia, Gino & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2005. "Horizontal Innovation in the Theory of Growth and Development," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 3, pages 111-170, Elsevier.
    5. Ribeiro, M.J., 2000. "A Nonscale Growth Model with R&D and Human Capital Accumulation," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 574, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    6. Bondarev, Anton & Krysiak, Frank C., 2021. "Economic development and the structure of cross-technology interactions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 132(C).
    7. Etro, Federico, 2023. "Technologies for endogenous growth," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C).
    8. Nicolas Carayol & Elodie Carpentier, 2022. "The spread of academic invention: a nationwide case study on French data (1995–2012)," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 47(5), pages 1395-1421, October.
    9. Giacomo Damioli & Vincent Van Roy & Daniel Vertesy, 2021. "The impact of artificial intelligence on labor productivity," Eurasian Business Review, Springer;Eurasia Business and Economics Society, vol. 11(1), pages 1-25, March.
    10. Richard M. H. Suen, 2013. "Research Policy and U.S. Economic Growth," Working papers 2013-18, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    11. Norman Sedgley & Bruce Elmslie, 2011. "Do We Still Need Cities? Evidence on Rates of Innovation from Count Data Models of Metropolitan Statistical Area Patents," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(1), pages 86-108, January.
    12. Capolupo, Rosa, 2009. "The New Growth Theories and Their Empirics after Twenty Years," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal (2007-2020), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), vol. 3, pages 1-72.
    13. Maria João Ribeiro, 2003. "Endogenous Growth: Analytical Review of its Generating Mechanisms," NIPE Working Papers 4/2003, NIPE - Universidade do Minho.
    14. Choi, Jin-Uk & Lee, Chang-Yang, 2022. "The differential effects of basic research on firm R&D productivity: The conditioning role of technological diversification," Technovation, Elsevier, vol. 118(C).
    15. Johannes W. Fedderke & Yang Liu, 2017. "Schumpeterian and semi-endogenous productivity growth explanations," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 25(1), pages 111-137, January.
    16. Akcigit, Ufuk & Dinlersoz, Emin & Greenwood, Jeremy & Penciakova, Veronika, 2022. "Synergizing ventures," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    17. Alston, Julian M. & Pardey, Philip G., 2022. "Are Ideas Really Getting Harder to Find?," Staff Papers 320517, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.
    18. Orlando Gomes, 2021. "Growth theory under heterogeneous heuristic behavior," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 533-571, April.
    19. Kemnitz, Alexander & Knoblach, Michael, 2020. "Endogenous sigma-augmenting technological change: An R&D-based approach," CEPIE Working Papers 02/20, Technische Universität Dresden, Center of Public and International Economics (CEPIE).
    20. Nicholas Bloom & Paul Romer & Stephen J Terry & John Van Reenen, 2021. "Trapped Factors and China’s Impact on Global Growth [Competition and innovation: an inverted-U relationship]," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 131(633), pages 156-191.

    More about this item


    Productivity; Growth; Innovation; R&D; Technological Change;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:20030. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.