Re: poly: World Economic History

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Mon Jun 22 1998 - 16:55:24 PDT

At 09:59 AM 6/10/98 -0700, you wrote:
>Carl's posting is fascinating as usual, but it raises a question. GDP is
>basically productivity times population. It would be interesting to know
>how much of the historical growth is due to each of these two factors.

This data is available at the same source as the data I used:
(which I did cite from

>As Carl mentions, getting access to the Americas allows population to
>increase considerably, independent of any productivity growth.

Geographic breakdowns are available in:

Michael Kremer (1993), "Population Growth and Technical Change, One
Million B.C. to 1990,"Quarterly Journal of Economics 108:3 (August),
pp. 681-716.

>When Robin first posted about growth rates, he referred to a set of
>papers which fit an asymptotic curve to (recent) population levels
>(infinite population around 2030 or so). For that to work, rate of
>growth needs to be proportional to population squared. In traditional
>biological growth, growth rate is proportional to population. So we
>need an additional multiplicative factor proportional to population.
>Could this be productivity? If growth rate is proportional to population
>times productivity, and productivity is proportional to population,
>then we get the asymptotic curve.
>All we have to do is get data on historical population levels and divide
>into Robin's GDP data to get historical productivity. Then we can look
>and see if it grows roughly in step with population.

I can already tell you that doesn't look that way in the data.
But look for yourself.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-2627
Received on Tue Jun 23 00:14:43 1998

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