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The Macroeconomics of Model T

  • Reto Foellmi
  • Tobias Wuergler
  • Josef Zweimüller

We study a model of endogenous growth where firms invest both in product and process innovations. Product innovations (that open up completely new product lines) satisfy the advanced wants of the rich. Subsequent process innovations (that decrease costs per unit of quality) transform the luxurious products of the rich into conveniences of the poor. A prototypical example for such a product cycle is the automobile. Initially an exclusive product for the very rich, the automobile became affordable to the middle class after the introduction of Ford's Model T, the car that 'put America on wheels'. We show that an egalitarian society creates strong incentives for process innovations (such as the Model T) whereas an unequal society creates strong incentives for product innovations (new luxuries). We show that the inequality-growth relationship depends on which type of innovative activity drives technical progress, analyzing both the characteristics of and the transition to the balanced growth path.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 459.

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Date of creation: Dec 2009
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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:459
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  1. Acemoglu, Daron, 1997. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change and Wage Inequality," CEPR Discussion Papers 1707, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Kiminori Matsuyama, 1999. "The Rise of Mass Consumption Societies," Discussion Papers 1289, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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  4. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S71-102, October.
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  7. Acemoglu, Daron & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 1998. "Productivity Differences," Seminar Papers 660, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  8. Foellmi, Reto & Zweimüller, Josef, 2005. "Income Distribution and Demand-Induced Innovations," CEPR Discussion Papers 4985, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Reto Foellmi & Josef Zweimueller, . "Inequality, Market Power, and Product Diversity," IEW - Working Papers 145, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  10. Sue Bowden & Avner Offer, 1994. "Household appliances and the use of time: the United States and Britain since the 1920s," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 47(4), pages 725-748, November.
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  12. Falkinger, Josef & Zweimuller, Josef, 1996. "The cross-country Engel curve for product diversification," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 79-97, March.
  13. Chiaki Moriguchi & Emmanuel Saez, 2008. "The Evolution of Income Concentration in Japan, 1886-2005: Evidence from Income Tax Statistics," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 713-734, November.
  14. Aghion, Philippe & Howitt, Peter, 1992. "A Model of Growth Through Creative Destruction," Scholarly Articles 12490578, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  15. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2001. "Das Human Kapital," CEPR Discussion Papers 2701, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Josef Zweimüller & Johann K. Brunner, 2005. "Innovation And Growth With Rich And Poor Consumers," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(2), pages 233-262, 05.
  17. Acemoglu, Daron, 2002. "Directed Technical Change," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(4), pages 781-809, October.
  18. Murphy, Kevin M & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1989. "Income Distribution, Market Size, and Industrialization," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(3), pages 537-64, August.
  19. Falkinger, Josef, 1994. "An Engelian model of growth and innovation with hierarchic consumer demand and unequal incomes," Ricerche Economiche, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 123-139, June.
  20. NAGAOKA Sadao & John P. WALSH, 2009. "The R&D Process in the U.S. and Japan: Major findings from the RIETI-Georgia Tech inventor survey," Discussion papers 09010, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
  21. Jackson, Laurence Fraser, 1984. "Hierarchic Demand and the Engel Curve for Variety," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(1), pages 8-15, February.
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