Must the growth rate decline? Baumol's unbalanced growth revisited

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Published on 17 January 2000

Working Paper no. 107
By Nicholas Oulton

According to Baumol’s model of unbalanced growth, if resources are shifting towards industries where productivity is growing relatively slowly, the aggregate productivity growth rate will slow down. This conclusion is often applied to the advanced industrial economies, where resources are indeed shifting towards the relatively stagnant service industries. However, I show that Baumol’s conclusion only follows if the stagnant industries produce final products. This is important empirically, since the most rapidly expanding service industries are those such as financial and business services, which are large producers of intermediate products. Even if such industries are stagnant, I show that a movement of resources into them may be associated with rising, not falling, aggregate productivity growth. 

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