In the immediate postwar period, Moses Abramovitz and Robert Solow both examined data on output and input growth from the first half of the twentieth century and reached similar conclusions. In the twentieth century, in contrast with the nineteenth, a much smaller fraction of real output growth could be swept back to the growth of inputs conventionally measured. The rise of the residual, they suggested, was an important distinguishing feature of twentieth century growth. This paper identifies two difficulties with this claim. First, TFP growth virtually disappeared in the U.S. between 1973 and 1995. Second, TFP growth was in fact quite robust between the end of the Civil War and 1906, as was in fact acknowledged by Abramovitz in his 1993 EHA Presidential address. Developing a revised macroeconomic narrative is essential in reconciling our interpretation of these numbers with what we know about scientific, technological, and organizational change during the gilded age.
Field, Alexander J. 2009. “U.S. Economic Growth in the Gilded Age.” Journal of Macroeconomics 31 (March): 173-90.