This paper examines the use of growth accounting by economic historians developed following Robert Solow's famous 1957 paper. Several general tendencies are identified, including a desire to account for Solow's residual and a reluctance to adopt the data-demanding methodological refinements of Dale Jorgenson, whose influence on the field was less than that of Edward Denison. Results from historical growth accounting studies are reviewed, and it is clear that the “crude residual” typically accounts for much less than the seven-eighths of labor productivity growth found by Solow and also that when TFP growth is rapid, improvements in efficiency are usually an important complement to technological progress. Nevertheless, growth accounting was important in undermining the “capital fundamentalism” of the 1950s and has been central to putting the contribution of technological progress in the Industrial Revolution into a clearer focus, free of the misleading “take-off” perspective advanced by Walt Rostow.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.