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Energy, knowledge, and Demo-Economic Development in the Long-Run: A Unified Growth Model

Emmanuel Bovari () and Victor Court ()

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Abstract: Because energy is usually absent from modern growth analysis, Unified growth models designed to study the economic take-off process have tended to focus on the role of human capital accumulation and its interaction with technical change. However, prominent economic historians claim that the transition to coal and its use in steam engines was the main driver of the Industrial Revolution. In order to try to reunite these diverging point of views, we provide in this article a quantitative analysis of the role of energy in long-term growth, accounting for the interaction between human capital accumulation and technological change. To do so, we design a unified growth model featuring fertility and educational choices, energy resources extraction, directed technical change, and endogenous general purpose technologies (GPTs) diffusion. The associated energy transition results from the endogenous shortage in the availability of renewable resources (wood), and the arrival of new GPTs that, together, redirect technical change towards the exploitation of previously unprofitable exhaustible energy (coal). A calibrated version of the model replicates the historical episode of the British Industrial Revolution, for which counterfactual simulations are performed to characterize the impact of the energy transition on the timing and magnitude of the economic take-off. Another numerical exercise provides a comparative analysis of Western Europe and Eastern Asia, emphasizing the relevance of discrepancies in terms of energy resources accessibility to explain the diverging dynamics of these two world regions. Our findings show that, whenever demographic dynamics and human capital accumulation are accounted for, energy use appears as a vital catalyst for the economic take-off process.

Keywords: Unified Growth Theory; Directed Technical Change; Energy Transition; Demographic Transition (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-05
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ene, nep-evo and nep-gro
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Working Paper: Energy, knowledge, and demo-economic development in the long run: a unified growth model (2019) Downloads
Working Paper: Energy, knowledge, and demo-economic development in the long run: a unified growth model (2019) Downloads
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