Discussion paper

DP3467 Distance to Frontier, Selection, and Economic Growth

We analyse an economy where managers engage both in the adoption of technologies from the world frontier and in innovation activities. The selection of high-skill managers is more important for innovation activities. As the economy approaches the technology frontier, selection becomes more important. As a result, countries at early stages of development pursue an investment-based strategy, with long-term relationships, high average size and age of firms, large average investments, but little selection. Closer to the world technology frontier, there is a switch to an innovation-based strategy with short-term relationships, younger firms, less investment and better selection of managers. We show that relatively backward economies may switch out of the investment-based strategy too soon, so certain economic institutions and policies, such as limits on product market competition or investment subsidies, which encourage the investment-based strategy may be beneficial. Societies that cannot switch out of the investment-based strategy, however, fail to converge to the world technology frontier. Non-convergence traps are more likely when policies and institutions are endogenized, enabling beneficiaries of existing policies to bribe politicians to maintain these policies.


Aghion, P, D Acemoğlu and F Zilibotti (eds) (2002), “DP3467 Distance to Frontier, Selection, and Economic Growth”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 3467. https://cepr.org/publications/dp3467