Classical growth theory
In classical (Ricardian) economics, the theory of production and the theory of growth are based on the theory or law of variable proportions, whereby increasing either of the factors of production.......
(labor or capital), while holding the other constant and assuming no technological change, will increase output, but at a diminishing rate that eventually will approach zero. These concepts have their origins in Thomas Malthus’s theorizing about agriculture. Malthus's examples included the number of seeds harvested relative to the number of seeds planted (capital) on a plot of land and the size of the harvest from a plot of land versus the number of workers employed. See also Diminishing returns.
Criticisms of classical growth theory are that technology, an important factor in economic growth, is held constant and that economies of scale are ignored.
Natural rate of growth
According to Harrod, the natural growth rate is the maximum rate of growth allowed by the increase of variables like population growth, technological improvement and growth in natural resources.
In fact, the natural growth rate is the highest attainable growth rate which would bring about the fullest possible employment of the resources existing in the economy.
This section is about a neoclassical growth model. It is not to be confused with Steady-state economy
Robert Solow and Trevor Swan developed what eventually became the main model used in growth economics in the 1950s.
This model assumes that there are diminishing returns to capital and labor. Capital accumulates through investment, but its level or stock continually decreases due to depreciation. Due to the diminishing returns to capital, with increases in capital/worker and absent technological progress, economic output/worker eventually reaches a point where capital per worker and economic output/worker remain constant because annual investment in capital equals annual depreciation. This condition is called the 'steady state'.
In the Solow–Swan model if productivity increases through technological progress, then output/worker increases even when the economy is in the steady state. If productivity increases at a constant rate, output/worker also increases at a related steady-state rate. As a consequence, growth in the model can occur either by increasing the share of GDP invested or through technological progress.
But at whatever share of GDP invested, capital/worker eventually converges on the steady state, leaving the growth rate of output/worker determined only by the rate of technological progress. As a consequence, with world technology available to all and progressing at a constant rate, all countries have the same steady state rate of growth. Each country has a different level of GDP/worker determined by the share of GDP it invests, but all countries have the same rate of economic growth.
Implicitly in this model rich countries are those that have invested a high share of GDP for a long time. Poor countries can become rich by increasing the share of GDP they invest. One important prediction of the model, mostly borne out by the data, is that of conditional convergence; the idea that poor countries will grow faster and catch up with rich countries as long as they have similar investment (and saving) rates and access to the same technology.
The Solow–Swan model is considered an "exogenous" growth model because it does not explain why countries invest different shares of GDP in capital nor why technology improves over time. Instead the rate of investment and the rate of technological progress are exogenous. The value of the model is that it predicts the pattern of economic growth once these two rates are specified. Its failure to explain the determinants of these rates is one of its limitations.
Although the rate of investment in the model is exogenous, under certain conditions the model implicitly predicts convergence in the rates of investment across countries. In a global economy with a global financial capital market, financial capital flows to the countries with the highest return on investment. In the Solow-Swan model countries with less capital/worker (poor countries) have a higher return on investment due to the diminishing returns to capital. As a consequence, capital/worker and output/worker in a global financial capital market should converge to the same level in all countries.
Since historically financial capital has not flowed to the countries with less capital/worker, the basic Solow–Swan model has a conceptual flaw. Beginning in the 1990s, this flaw has been addressed by adding additional variables to the model that can explain why some countries are less productive than others and, therefore, do not attract flows of global financial capital even though they have less (physical) capital/worker.
Endogenous growth theory
Unsatisfied with the assumption of exogenous technological progress in the Solow–Swan model, economists worked to "endogenize" (i.e., explain it "from within" the models) productivity growth in the 1980s; the resulting endogenous growth theory, most notably advanced by Robert Lucas, Jr. and his student Paul Romer, includes a mathematical explanation of technological advancement.
This model also incorporated a new concept of human capital, the skills and knowledge that make workers productive. Unlike physical capital, human capital has increasing rates of return. Research done in this area has focused on what increases human capital (e.g. education) or technological change (e.g. innovation).
Unified growth theory
Unified growth theory was developed by Oded Galor and his co-authors to address the inability of endogenous growth theory to explain key empirical regularities in the growth processes of individual economies and the world economy as a whole. Endogenous growth theory was satisfied with accounting for empirical regularities in the growth process of developed economies over the last hundred years.
As a consequence, it was not able to explain the qualitatively different empirical regularities that characterized the growth process over longer time horizons in both developed and less developed economies. Unified growth theories are endogenous growth theories that are consistent with the entire process of development, and in particular the transition from the epoch of Malthusian stagnation that had characterized most of the process of development to the contemporary era of sustained economic growth.
The big push
One popular theory in the 1940s was the big push model, which suggested that countries needed to jump from one stage of development to another through a virtuous cycle, in which large investments in infrastructure and education coupled with private investments would move the economy to a more productive stage, breaking free from economic paradigms appropriate to a lower productivity stage. The idea was revived and formulated rigorously, in the late 1980s by Kevin Murphy, Andrei Shleifer and Robert Vishny.
Schumpeterian growth is an economic theory named after the 20th-century Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter.
The approach explains growth as a consequence of innovation and a process of creative destruction that captures the dual nature of technological progress: in terms of creation, entrepreneurs introduce new products or processes in the hope that they will enjoy temporary monopoly-like profits as they capture markets. In doing so, they make old technologies or products obsolete. This can be seen as an annulment of previous technologies, which makes them obsolete, and "destroys the rents generated by previous innovations." A major model that illustrates Schumpeterian growth is the Aghion–Howitt model.
Institutions and growth
According to Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson and James Robinson, the positive correlation between high income and cold climate is a by-product of history. Europeans adopted very different colonization policies in different colonies, with different associated institutions.
In places where these colonizers faced high mortality rates (e.g., due to the presence of tropical diseases), they could not settle permanently, and they were thus more likely to establish extractive institutions, which persisted after independence; in places where they could settle permanently (e.g. those with temperate climates), they established institutions with this objective in mind and modeled them after those in their European homelands. In these 'neo-Europes' better institutions in turn produced better development outcomes. Thus, although other economists focus on the identity or type of legal system of the colonizers to explain institutions, these authors look at the environmental conditions in the colonies to explain institutions.
For instance, former colonies have inherited corrupt governments and geopolitical boundaries (set by the colonizers) that are not properly placed regarding the geographical locations of different ethnic groups, creating internal disputes and conflicts that hinder development. In another example, societies that emerged in colonies without solid native populations established better property rights and incentives for long-term investment than those where native populations were large.
Human capital and growth
Many theoretical and empirical analyses of economic growth attribute a major role to a country's level of human capital, defined as the skills of the population or the work force. Human capital has been included in both neoclassical and endogenous growth models.
A country's level of human capital is difficult to measure, since it is created at home, at school, and on the job. Economists have attempted to measure human capital using numerous proxies, including the population's level of literacy, its level of numeracy, its level of book production/capita, its average level of formal schooling, its average test score on international tests, and its cumulative depreciated investment in formal schooling.
The most commonly-used measure of human capital is the level (average years) of school attainment in a country, building upon the data development of Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee. This measure is widely used because Barro and Lee provide data for numerous countries in five-year intervals for a long period of time.
One problem with the schooling attainment measure is that the amount of human capital acquired in a year of schooling is not the same at all levels of schooling and is not the same in all countries. This measure also presumes that human capital is only developed in formal schooling, contrary to the extensive evidence that families, neighborhoods, peers, and health also contribute to the development of human capital.
Despite these potential limitations, Theodore Breton has shown that this measure can represent human capital in log-linear growth models because across countries GDP/adult has a log-linear relationship to average years of schooling, which is consistent with the log-linear relationship between workers' personal incomes and years of schooling in the Mincer model.
Eric Hanushek and Dennis Kimko introduced measures of students' mathematics and science skills from international assessments into growth analysis. They found that this measure of human capital was very significantly related to economic growth. Eric Hanushek and Ludger Wößmann have extended this analysis. Theodore Breton shows that the correlation between economic growth and students' average test scores in Hanushek and Wößmann's analyses is actually due to the relationship in countries with less than eight years of schooling.
He shows that economic growth is not correlated with average scores in more educated countries. Hanushek and Wößmann further investigate whether the relationship of knowledge capital to economic growth is causal. They show that the level of students' cognitive skills can explain the slow growth in Latin America and the rapid growth in East Asia.
Energy consumption and growth
Energy economic theories hold that rates of energy consumption and energy efficiency are linked causally to economic growth. A fixed relationship between historical rates of global energy consumption and the historical accumulation of global economic wealth has been observed.
Increases in energy efficiency were a portion of the increase in Total factor productivity. Some of the most technologically important innovations in history involved increases in energy efficiency. These include the great improvements in efficiency of conversion of heat to work, the reuse of heat, the reduction in friction and the transmission of power, especially through electrification."Electricity consumption and economic growth are strongly correlated". "Per capita electric consumption correlates almost perfectly with economic development."
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