Sources of economic growth

Robert J. Barro, Jong Wha Lee

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478 Citations (Scopus)


For 116 countries from 1965 to 1985, the lowest quintile had an average growth rate of real per capita GDP of - 1.3%, whereas the highest quintile had an average of 4.8%. We isolate five influences that discriminate reasonably well between the slow-and fast-growers: a conditional convergence effect, whereby a country grows faster if it begins with lower real per-capita GDP relative to its initial level of human capital in the forms of educational attainment and health; a positive effect on growth from a high ratio of investment to GDP (although this effect is weaker than that reported in some previous studies); a negative effect from overly large government; a negative effect from government-induced distortions of markets; and a negative effect from political instability. Overall, the fifted growth rates for 85 countries for 1965-1985 had a correlation of 0.8 with the actual values. We also find that female educational attainment has a pronounced negative effect on fertility, whereas female and male attainment are each positively related to life expectancy and negatively related to infant mortality. Male attainment plays a positive role in primary-school enrollment ratios, and male and female attainment relate positively to enrollment at the secondary level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-46
Number of pages46
JournalCarnegie-Rochester Confer. Series on Public Policy
Issue numberC
Publication statusPublished - 1994 Jun

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
*We have benefited from comments by Zvi Griliches, Allan Meltzer, Michael Sarel, Andrei Shleifer, and Nancy Stokey. The research by Barro was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. t Correspondence to: Robert J. Barro, Department of Economics, Harvard University, Littauer Center, Cambridge, MA 02138 ‘The GDP data are the purchasing-power Heston (1988).


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