Essays on innovation, leadership, and growth
Author(s)Jones, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Felt), 1972-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Economics.
Daron Acemoglu and Abhijit Banerjee.
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The first two chapters of this thesis investigate a possibly fundamental aspect of technological progress. If knowledge accumulates as technology progresses, then successive generations of innovators may face an increasing educational burden, forcing them to spend longer periods in education and/or become increasingly specialized. In either case, the productivity of innovators may be reduced, with negative implications for growth. The first chapter develops a formal model to examine the growth implications of this "knowledge burden mechanism" and generate testable predictions for innovators. The model predicts that educational attainment, specialization, and teamwork will rise over time. In cross-section, the model predicts that specialization and teamwork will be greater in deeper areas of knowledge while, surprisingly, educational attainment will not vary across fields. I test these predictions using a micro-data set of individual inventors and find evidence consistent with each of these predictions. The second chapter further investigates the knowledge burden mechanism. Using data on famous inventions, I find that the age at which inventors produced them increased by 5 years over the 20th Century. The chapter employs a maximum likelihood model to test explanations for this trend. A knowledge-based explanation receives considerable support: innovators appear to arrive at the knowledge frontier 6.6 years later at the end of the 20th Century than they did at the beginning. This trend is unlikely to be sustainable and further suggests that educational externalities are a problematic byproduct of technological progress, particularly if innovators do their best work when they are young. The final chapter investigates whether national leaders impact growth in developing coun- tries. Using deaths of leaders while in office as a source of exogenous variation, we ask whether such randomly-timed leadership transitions are associated with shifts in country growth rates.We find robust evidence that leaders have a causal effect on growth. The effect of leaders on growth appears limited to non-democracies, where the death of an autocrat tends to be followed by a substantial, prolonged increase in growth.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Economics, 2003.Includes bibliographical references.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Economics.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology