The Productivity Impact of World War II Mobilization in the United States

83 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2018 Last revised: 31 Jan 2019

See all articles by Alexander J. Field

Alexander J. Field

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department

Date Written: January 28, 2019

Abstract

Claims that the experience of economic mobilization between 1942 and 1945 laid the supply foundations for output and productivity growth in the United States after the war have formed the basis of the conventional wisdom for decades. In fact, between 1941 and 1948, total factor productivity within manufacturing declined, and fell even more sharply during the war. The war forced a radical shift towards goods in which the manufacturing sector had little experience, where initial productivity levels were low. The learning that took place in the mass production of ships, aircraft, and other munitions had little relevance for the postwar period because the wartime output mix and implicit factor prices were unique to that period. Considering together the effects on TFP, the labor force, and the physical capital stock, the longer term impact of mobilization on the level and trajectory of US potential output was, on balance, almost certainly negative.

Keywords: Productivity, Learning by Doing, World War II

JEL Classification: O47, O51, N12

Suggested Citation

Field, Alexander J., The Productivity Impact of World War II Mobilization in the United States (January 28, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3110832 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3110832

Alexander J. Field (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA California 95053
United States
408 554 4348 (Phone)
408 554 2331 (Fax)

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