Was an Industrial Revolution Inevitable? Economic Growth Over the Very Long Run

54 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2000 Last revised: 14 Oct 2010

See all articles by Charles I. Jones

Charles I. Jones

Stanford Graduate School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: October 1999

Abstract

This paper studies a growth model that is able to match several key facts of economic history. For thousands of years, the average standard of living seems to have risen very little, despite increases in the level of technology and large increases in the level of the population. Then, after thousands of years of little change, the level of per capita consumption increased dramatically in less than two centuries. Quantitative analysis of the model highlights two factors central to understanding this history. The first is a virtuous circle: more people produce more ideas, which in turn makes additional population growth possible. The second is an improvement in institutions that promote innovation, such as property rights: the simulated economy indicates that the single most important factor in the transition to modern growth has been the increase in the fraction of output pain to compensate inventors for the fruits of their labor.

Suggested Citation

Jones, Charles I., Was an Industrial Revolution Inevitable? Economic Growth Over the Very Long Run (October 1999). NBER Working Paper No. w7375. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=194610

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