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Working paper 349

Michelle Alexopoulos and Jon Cohen, "Measuring Our Ignorance, One Book at a Time: New Indicators of Technological Change, 1909-1949", 2009-02-23
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Abstract: We present new indicators of U.S. technological change for the period
1909-49 based on information in the Library of Congress' catalogue. We use
these indicators to estimate the connections between technological change
and economic activity, and to investigate the relationship between
fluctuations in innovative activity and the Great Depression. Although we
do find links between technological change, output and productivity, our
results suggest that the slowdown in technological progress in the early
1930s did not contribute significantly to the Great Depression. On the
other hand, the remarkable acceleration in innovations after 1934 did play
a role in the recovery.

Keywords: Technical Change, Productivity, the Great Depression

JEL Classification: E3, O3, O4, N1