Goodbye, Golden Age of Growth


The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War, Author: Robert J Gordon.

By Robert J Gordon – The rise in the U.S. standard of living from 1870 to 1970 was a special century — and won’t likely be repeated. Growth over the next quarter century will resemble the slow pace of 2004–2015, not the faster growth rate of 1994–2004, much less the rapid rate achieved between 1920 and 1970.

The 1920-70 expansion grew out of the second industrial revolution, when fossil fuels, the internal-combustion engine, advanced metals and factory automation came together to produce electric lighting, indoor plumbing, home appliances, motor vehicles, air travel, air conditioning, television and much longer life expectancy. (The first industrial revolution, mostly in Britain in the late 18th century, involved the early use of iron and steel, steam engines and factory production.)

Households also benefited from the second industrial revolution in ways that escaped measurement, including the convenience, safety and brightness of electric light compared with oil lamps, and freedom from the drudgery of carrying water that clean, piped water made possible.

The slower rate of productivity growth since 1970 is important evidence that the third industrial revolution — the one resulting from computers and digitalization — has been less important than the second industrial revolution. Not only has the growth rate been slower since 1970, unmeasured improvements in the quality of everyday life created by computing are less significant than those of the previous industrial revolution. more>

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