March 22, 2018 — Declining growth rates in productivity and GDP have been observed in recent years. A variety of explanations have been offered.
The most prominent explanations involve technology. On the one hand, Robert Gordon (2016) has argued persuasively that we should not expect Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and other technological innovations of recent years to have as big an economic payoff as electricity, the automobile, and other technological revolutions of the past. On the other hand, Martin Feldstein (2017) has argued persuasively that productivity growth is higher than we realize, because government statistics “grossly understate the value of improvements in the quality of existing goods and services” and “don’t even try to measure the full contribution,” of new goods and services, and that these measurement errors are probably becoming more important over time.
Less attention has been given to another possibility: while ICT and other technological developments bring many heralded benefits, they have some less-heralded negative side-effects that may contribute to the slowdown in productivity and growth. Continue reading