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American Economic Review: Vol. 99 No. 5 (December 2009)

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Innovation Diffusion in Heterogeneous Populations: Contagion, Social Influence, and Social Learning

Article Citation

Young, H Peyton. 2009. "Innovation Diffusion in Heterogeneous Populations: Contagion, Social Influence, and Social Learning." American Economic Review, 99(5): 1899-1924.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.99.5.1899

Abstract

New ideas, products, and practices take time to diffuse, a fact that is often attributed to some form of heterogeneity among potential adopters. This paper examines three broad classes of diffusion models -- contagion, social influence, and social learning -- and shows how to incorporate heterogeneity into each at a high level of generality without losing analytical tractability. Each type of model leaves a characteristic "footprint" on the shape of the adoption curve which provides a basis for discriminating empirically between them. The approach is illustrated using the classic study of Ryan and Gross (1943) on the diffusion of hybrid corn. (JEL D83, O33, Q16, Z13)

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Authors

Young, H. Peyton (U Oxford)

JEL Classifications

D83: Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief
O33: Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
Q16: Agricultural R&D; Agricultural Technology; Agricultural Extension Services
Z13: Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Social and Economic Stratification


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