DP10995 A Vision of the Growth Process in a Technologically Progressive Economy: the United States, 1899-1941

Author(s): Gerben Bakker, Nicholas Crafts, Pieter Woltjer
Publication Date: December 2015
Keyword(s): growth, Harberger diagram, mushrooms, productivity growth, TFP
JEL(s): N11, N12, O47, O51
Programme Areas: Economic History, International Macroeconomics and Finance
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=10995

We develop new aggregate and sectoral total factor productivity (TFP) estimates for the United States between 1899 and 1941 through better coverage of sectors and better measured labor quality, and show TFP growth was lower than previously thought, broadly based across sectors, strongly variant inter-temporally, and consistent with many diverse sources of innovation. we then test and reject three prominent claims. First, the 1930s did not have the highest TFP growth of the twentieth century. Second, TFP growth was not predominantly caused by four leading sectors. Third, TFP growth was not caused by a 'yeast process' originating in a dominant technology such as electricity.