Market integration and structural transformation

Authors: Ingvild Almås, Thor Berger, Timo Boppart, Konrad Burchadi, Hannes Malmberg

A distinguishing characteristic of many developing countries is that the vast majority of production units are small and use technologies that are far from the technological frontier. Production is often self-consumed, or sold in small local markets and the supply chain is hardly vertically integrated. In rich countries on the other hand, firms are large, specialized, and utilize frontier production technologies, while serving integrated national and global markets. These observations beg the question: Can integration of poor peripheral locations into national and global markets spur economic development? What is the role of decreasing trade cost for productivity increases, firm dynamics, trade, and output?

Firm survival and the rise of the factory

Authors: Thor Berger, Mats Olsson and Vinzent Ostermeyer

Among the most long-lasting innovations of the Industrial Revolution was the organization of industrial production within the confines of the factory system. The factory system combined three distinct characteristics: discipline and supervision (“factory discipline”), division of labor and coordination, and the use of non-human power sources. The debate over the relative importance of these factors date back to the 19th century and have been a long-running debate among business and economic historians. Although the transition from the artisan shop to the factory remains at the heart of accounts of industrialization, the literature suffers from the absence of data that enables longitudinal quantitative comparisons of how alternative systems of organizing industrial production performed during early industrialization. Moreover, the bulk of the debate has concerned Britain during its industrialization despite the fact that the factory became the universal mode of organizing industry throughout the later industrializers.

Institutional change and the adoption of new technologies: the case of steam

Authors: Thor Berger and Vinzent Ostermeyer

A large literature documents a slow rate of adoption of technologies — from electricity to ICT — that could seemingly raise firm productivity significantly. The paradigmatic technology of the Industrial Revolution, steam power, provides a telling example. Adopting steam promised large gains in firm-level productivity, as it enabled the mechanization of a wide range of production tasks. Contemporary observers ascribed it a key role as the engine behind the accelerated pace of productivity growth and the rise of the factory. Yet, cliometric analysis of the first General Purpose Technology paints a less revolutionary picture: Steam power diffused slowly and its growth impacts took more than a century to fully materialize.

Returnees and entrepreneurship

Authors: Olof Ejermo, Kerstin Enflo, Björn Eriksson, Erik Prawitz

About 1.4 million people emigrated from Sweden to America 1860-1920 from which approximately 200,000 returned. Many returnees had been exposed to new ideas and technologies. Coupled with capital and acquired skills, these ideas could be brought back and implemented at home. At the same time, Sweden went from being a poor country in the European periphery to one of the fastest growing economies. What was the role of returnees in this phase of modernization? In particular, this project asks the overarching question “How did returnees from the Great emigration contribute to Swedish entrepreneurship?” Of course, not all regions benefited from returning migrants. Quite surprisingly, systematic knowledge about regional resettlement patterns and subsequent effects on entrepreneurial activities is largely lacking. Such patterns may have more bearing on our understanding of present-day entrepreneurship than we think. The literature shows that entrepreneurial and inventive behavior is not only highly unequally distributed in geographical space, but also extremely regionally persistent (Reynolds et al., 1994, Fritsch and Storey, 2014). This means that, given their numbers, returnees may have changed both the regional distribution and the type of entrepreneurship that we observe, even today. This project addresses these phenomena by asking three questions: a) “Which regions benefitted from returnee entrepreneurship?“, b) “Did the effect of returnee entrepreneurship generate persistent local effects?” and c) Through which mechanisms were these effects transmitted?