Productivity Growth in Latin America during the Twentieth Century

Dec 2003 | 052

Authors: Valpy Fitzgerald, Pablo Astorga, Ame R. Bergés

Analysis of new comparable series on output and employment between 1900 and 2000 for Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela indicates that productivity growth was significantly higher and less volatile during the middle decades of the century than in the opening and closing decades. The first estimate of total factor productivity (TFP) growth for Latin America during the twentieth century as a whole, derived from the residuals of a skill-augmented production function, indicates that unembodied technical progress was low and that the accumulation of fixed and human capital accounted for almost all recorded economic progress. Sectoral disaggregation suggests that this factor accumulation was associated with increased levels of capital per worker during industrialization on the one hand; and with both out-migration from agriculture and the lagged consequences of a demographic transition on the other. The relatively low rates of human and physical capital accumulation in Latin America remain to be explained, although these are more likely to be associated with inadequate public provision of infrastructure and education than with the cycle of protection and liberalization as such.

JEL Codes: O1, O4, N3, N5, N6

Keywords: Aggregate Productivity and Growth, Agriculture, Manufacturing, Total Factor Productivity, Human Capital

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