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Free Content Distinguished Lecture on Economics in Government: Lessons from Past Productivity Booms

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A number of observers argue that the present era of robust trend productivity growth will soon come to an end. Others contend that the potential gains to productivity from the technological advances associated with the computer revolution are far from complete. In assessing the likelihood of these alternative outcomes, one should recognize that periods of strong trend productivity growth, although perhaps novel to many of us, are not new to the U.S. economy. In particular, three earlier periods of strong trend productivity growth stand out from the historical record as especially worthy of further scrutiny for the lessons they may offer regarding the current episode: the late 1800s from roughly the end of the Civil War to around 1890; the decade or so between the end of World War I and the onset of the Great Depression; and the period from about 1950 to the early 1970s.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2004

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  • The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.
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