Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Researchers and the Wealth of Nations

Cabello, Matias and Rojas, Carolina (2016): Researchers and the Wealth of Nations.

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Abstract

Despite the repeated claim by eminent students of economic growth that scientists and inventors have contributed to economic development, no study has yet quantified this effect using the rich historical record of great minds. Introducing a novel database of per capita researchers since the antiquity, we show that the history of research activity (corrected for geographical biases) predicts economic growth over the long run better than any other established growth predictor, and that this predictive power, while subject to swings, has been consistently increasing through time over the long run. These conclusions are drawn after presenting a number of facts suggesting that forces exogenous to income and population growth have determined how intensively countries have engaged in research. In contrast to a large body of literature, we find that property rights and schooling have been of minor importance for research and for economic growth through modern history.Our estimated dynamic impact of researcher densities on economic growth are very consistent through a variety of samples and regressions, based either on cross-sectional or on time-series variance. Permanently doubling the number of researchers per capita had barely an impact in 1800, but today its impact might be an increase of annualized economic growth rates of 1% in a 20-years span.

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