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The Most Technologically Progressive Decade of the Century
  • Alexander J. Field, Santa Clara University
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American Economic Association
Because of the Depression’s place in both the popular and academic imagination, and the repeated and justifiable emphasis on output that was not produced, income that was not earned, and expenditure that did not take place, it will seem startling to propose the following hypothesis: the years 1929–1941 were, in the aggregate, the most technologically progressive of any comparable period in U.S. economic history.1 The hypothesis entails two primary claims: that during this period businesses and government contractors implemented or adopted on a more widespread basis a wide range of new technologies and practices, resulting in the highest rate of measured peacetime peak-to-peak multifactor productivity growth in the century, and secondly, that the Depression years produced advances that replenished and expanded the larder of unexploited or only partially exploited techniques, thus providing the basis for much of the labor and multifactor productivity improvement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Copyright © 1984 by the American Economic Association.

Citation Information
Field, Alexander J. 2003. “The Most Technologically Progressive Decade of the Century,” American Economic Review 93 (September): 1399-1414.