New technologies tend to be adopted slowly and – even after being adopted – take time to be reflected in higher aggregate productivity. One prominent explanation for these patterns is the need to reorganize production, which often goes hand-in-hand with major technological breakthroughs. Mara P. Squicciarini of Bocconi University and her co-authors study a unique setting that allows them to examine the empirical relevance of this explanation: the adoption of mechanized cotton spinning during the First Industrial Revolution in France. The new technology required reorganizing production by moving workers from their homes to the newly- formed factories. Using a novel hand-collected plant-level dataset from French archival sources, they show that productivity growth in mechanized cotton spinning was driven by the disappearance of plants in the lower tail – in contrast to other sectors that did not need to reorganize when new technologies were introduced. They provide evidence that this was driven by the need to learn about optimal ways of organizing production. In this Quantitative History Webinar, Mara P. Squicciarini will explore how this process of ‘trial and error’ led to initially low and widely dispersed productivity, and – in the subsequent decades – to high productivity growth as knowledge diffused through the economy and new entrants adopted improved methods of organizing production.
Mara's co-authors: Reka Juhasz (Columbia University) and Nico Voigtlaender (University of California, Los Angeles)
Live on Zoom on June 3, 2021
16:00 Hong Kong/Beijing/Singapore
09:00 London | 10:00 Milan | 17:00 Tokyo | 18:00 Sydney
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This webinar will not be recorded, so don't miss out!
Photo credit: Appleton's Cyclopaedia of Applied Mechanics, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
About the Quantitative History Webinar Series
The Quantitative History Webinar Series, convened by Professor Zhiwu Chen and Dr. Chicheng Ma of The University of Hong Kong (HKU), aims to provide researchers, teachers and students with an online intellectual platform to keep up to date with the latest research in the field, promoting the dissemination of research findings and interdisciplinary use of quantitative methods in historical research. The Series is co-organized by the International Society for Quantitative History, HKU Business School, and the Asia Global Institute (AGI).
Professor Zhiwu Chen
Dr. Chicheng Ma
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