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Early Progress on the "Problem of Economic Development"

Quarterly Review 1722 | Spring 1993

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James A. Schmitz, Jr. Senior Research Economist
Early Progress on the "Problem of Economic Development"


This study describes recent attempts to solve what Lucas has called the "problem of economic development"—the problem of accounting for the great disparity in per-capita output across countries. The study examines a number of economic development theories, including the neoclassical theory of growth, which relies on cross-country differences in physical capital per person to explain the disparity, and newer theories, which stress cross-country differences in human capital, or education. It is argued that these models cannot account for observed per-capita output diversity. More promising theories are those that stress differences in incentives for entrepreneurs to create businesses (i.e., business capital) and adopt new technologies.