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American Economic Review: Vol. 91 No. 5 (December 2001)

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Learning from Experience and Learning from Others: An Exploration of Learning and Spillovers in Wartime Shipbuilding

Article Citation

Thornton, Rebecca Achee, and Peter Thompson. 2001. "Learning from Experience and Learning from Others: An Exploration of Learning and Spillovers in Wartime Shipbuilding." American Economic Review, 91(5): 1350-1368.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.91.5.1350

Abstract

A new data set facilitates study of learning spillovers in World War II shipbuilding. Our results contain two principal but contrasting themes. First, learning spillovers were a significant source of productivity growth, and may have contributed more than conventional learning effects. Second, the size of the learning externalities across yards, as measured by Spence's theta, were small. These findings, which are not mutually inconsistent, suggest an optimistic view of learning spillovers: they are a significant source of productivity growth, but the market failures induced by learning externalities may be modest.

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Authors

Thornton, Rebecca Achee (U Houston)
Thompson, Peter (U Houston)

JEL Classifications

L62: Automobiles; Other Transportation Equipment
D83: Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief
N72: Economic History: Transport, Trade, Energy, Technology, and Other Services: U.S.; Canada: 1913-
O33: Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes


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