The study we present is about the level, evolution and trend breaks in productivity from 1890 to 2012 in advanced countries. What at first sight looks like a historical reminiscence turns out to be an overview of past and contemporary productivity developments worth reading. The main results (cf. the non technical summary, pp. 3 - 4):
(1) There have been two "productivity growth waves, the first big one corresponding to the second technological revolution (use of electricity power, internal combustion engine, chemical production . . .) and the second, smaller and shorter, to the ICT technology revolution. In the US, the first wave corresponds to a productivity acceleration during the 1920s and the 1930s and a deceleration during the two following decades and the second wave to a productivity acceleration during the 1980s and the 1990s and a deceleration afterwards. This latest deceleration leads one to question the future contribution of the ICT revolution to productivity enhancement".
(2) With a delay, other countries benefited from the two waves but less for the second one. During the period the productivity leaders changed, and there is no global and permanent productivity level convergence.
(3) Global financial crises, world wars, global supply shocks caused general productivity breaks in all countries at these specific moments.
(4) There appear country specific productivity breaks which can be linked "to idiosyncratic shocks" such as policy ones or technological ones.
The authors conclude that adopting "a long-term view on productivity developments is crucial when studying decade-long phenomena such as innovation diffusion or convergence processes. It provides a precious diagnosis on the way innovation spread to productivity within and across countries, highlighting the current ICT revolution diffusion and its prospects." (p. 32)
Bergeaud, Antonin; Gilbert Cette; Rémy Lecat 2014
Productivity Trends from 1890 to 2012 in Advanced Countries. Paris: Banque de France. (Document de Travail No. 475)