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Technological Change and U.S. Productivity Growth in the Interwar Years

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2006

Michel and Mary Orradre Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95053. E-mail:


Manufacturing contributed almost all—83 percent—of the growth of total factor productivity in the U.S. private nonfarm economy between 1919 and 1929. During the depression manufacturing TFP growth was not as uniformly distributed, and only half as rapid, accounting for only 48 percent of PNE TFP growth. Yet the overall growth of the residual between 1929 and 1941 was the highest of any comparable period in the twentieth century. This resulted from the combination of a still potent manufacturing contribution with advances in transportation, public utilities, and distribution, fueled in part by investments in public infrastructure.

© 2006 The Economic History Association

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