Convergence of Productivity: Cross-National Studies and Historical Evidence

Convergence of Productivity: Cross-National Studies and Historical Evidence

Convergence of Productivity: Cross-National Studies and Historical Evidence

Convergence of Productivity: Cross-National Studies and Historical Evidence

Synopsis

This comprehensive study is a collection of original articles that view the current state of knowledge of the convergence hypothesis. The hypothesis asserts that at least since the Second World War, and perhaps for a considerable period before that, the group of industrial countries was growing increasingly homogeneous in terms of levels of productivity, technology and per capita incomes. In addition, there was general catch up toward the leader, with gradual erosion of the gap between the leader country, the U. S., throughout most of the pertinent period, and that of the countries lagging most closely behind it. The book examines patterns displayed by individual industries within countries as well as the aggregate economies, various influences that underlie the process of convergence that seems to have occurred, and the role that convergence has played and promises to play in the future of the newly industrialized nations and the less developed countries. Much of the analysis is set in a historical perspective, with particular attention paid to the record following World War II. The prestigious editors conclude that increasing productivity is the key to rising living standards in a globalized marketplace. Contributors include: Moses Abramovitz, Alice M. Amsden, Magnus Blomstrom, David Dollar, Takashi Hikino, Gregory Ingram, William Lazonick, Frank Lichtenberg, Robert E. Lipsey, Angus Maddison, Gavin Wright, and Mario Zejan.

Excerpt

This book is a compendium of papers presented at New York University in the spring of 1992 at a conference on the convergence hypothesis. The hypothesis asserts that at least since World War II, and perhaps for a considerable period before that, the group of industrial countries was growing increasingly homogeneous in terms of levels of productivity, technology, and per-capita income. In addition, there was a general catch-up toward the leader, with the gradual erosion of the gap between the leader economy, the United States throughout most of the pertinent period, and those of the countries lagging most closely behind it. The conference was intended to review the evidence for and against the hypothesis, to discuss methods for testing the hypothesis, to investigate the position of the less developed countries in the observed scenario, and to offer explanatory material on the observed developments.

The importance of the subject seems clear: It offers a vantage point from which one can systematically approach a discussion of recent trends in the world economy and the plausible possibilities for its future. More particularly, it deals directly with the course of economic equality or inequality among nations. Tautologically, to the extent that convergence takes place in reality, the disparity among wealthy and impoverished nations must decline, which obviously has major implications for the well-being and good relations of the countries of the world. It is, consequently, understandable why, when new data and other pertinent evidence recently became available, the subject should have elicited considerable interest among economists and others.

The organizers of the conference were extremely fortunate in being able to arrange for the participation of several of the most distinguished contributors to the pertinent literature, most notably Moses Abramovitz -- who besides being a founder of this field of investigation has consistently provided wisdom and balanced judgment on the subject -- and Angus Maddison -- whose efforts in gathering, cleansing, and analyzing the pertinent data made progress in the arena possible. In addition, the organizers were able to gather talented contributors to the field from younger generations, whose work, as reported here, is a clear indication of their ability.

We believe that the conference did succeed in providing new evidence on and new insights into the central subject. This book is their concrete manifestation.

The efforts of several persons were critical to the efficiency and pleasantness with which the conference was run. For this we are most heavily indebted to Ms. Cindy Heilberger, executive director of the C. V. Starr Center for Applied Economics at New York University, who took full charge of all the arrangements and carried them out in . . .

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