World War II R&D and the Takeoff of the US Innovation System

That is the article subtitle, the title is “America, Jump-Started:,” and the authors of this new AER piece are Daniel P. Gross and Bhaven N. Sampat.  Here is the abstract:

During World War II, the US government’s Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) supported one of the largest public investments in applied R&D in US history. Using data on all OSRD-funded invention, we show this shock had a formative impact on the US innovation system, catalyzing technology clusters across the country, with accompanying increases in high-tech entrepreneurship and employment. These effects persist until at least the 1970s and appear to be driven by agglomerative forces and endogenous growth. In addition to creating technology clusters, wartime R&D permanently changed the trajectory of overall US innovation in the direction of OSRD-funded technologies.

This is very important work, and among other things it may help explain the productivity slowdown starting in the early 1970s (that is my speculation, not from the authors).  Recommended, for all those who follow these topics.

Here are earlier, less gated copies.


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