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Distance to the Pre-industrial Technological Frontier and Economic Development

Özak, Ömer (2016): Distance to the Pre-industrial Technological Frontier and Economic Development. Forthcoming in: Journal of Economic Growth

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Abstract

This research explores the effects of distance to the pre-industrial technological frontiers on comparative economic development in the course of human history. It establishes theoretically and empirically that distance to the frontier had a persistent non-monotonic effect on a country's pre-industrial economic development. In particular, advancing a novel measure of the travel time to the technological frontiers, the analysis establishes a robust persistent U-shaped relation between distance to the frontier and pre-industrial economic development across countries. Moreover, it demonstrates that countries, which throughout the last two millennia were relatively more distant from these frontiers, have higher contemporary levels of innovation and entrepreneurial activity, suggesting that distance from the frontier may have fostered the emergence of a culture conducive to innovation, knowledge creation, and entrepreneurship.

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