David de la Croix, Matthias Doepke, Joel Mokyr

In the centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution, Western Europe gradually pulled ahead of other world regions in terms of technological creativity, population growth, and income per capita. We argue that superior institutions for the creation and dissemination of productive knowledge help explain the European advantage. We build a model of technological progress in a pre-industrial economy that emphasizes the person-to-person transmission of tacit knowledge. The young learn as apprentices from the old. Institutions such as the family, the clan, the guild, and the market organize who learns from whom. We argue that medieval European institutions such as guilds, and specific features such as journeymanship, can explain the rise of Europe relative to regions that relied on the transmission of knowledge within extended families or clans.

JEL Codes
E02: Institutions and the Macroeconomy
J24: Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
N10: Economic History: Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations: General, International, or Comparative
N30: Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy: General, International, or Comparative
O33: Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
O43: Institutions and Growth
dissemination of knowledge
population growth