A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In the century after the Civil War, an economic revolution improved the American standard of living in ways previously unimaginable. Electric lighting, indoor plumbing, home appliances, motor vehicles, air travel, air conditioning, and television transformed households and workplaces. With medical advances, life expectancy between 1870 and 1970 grew from forty-five to seventy-two years. Weaving together a vivid narrative, historical anecdotes, and economic analysis, The Rise and Fall of American Growth provides an in-depth account of this momentous era. But has that era of unprecedented growth come to an end?
Gordon challenges the view that economic growth can or will continue unabated, and he demonstrates that the life-altering scale of innovations between 1870 and 1970 can't be repeated. He contends that the nation's productivity growth, which has already slowed to a crawl, will be further held back by the vexing headwinds of rising inequality, stagnating education, an aging population, and the rising debt of college students and the federal government. Gordon warns that the younger generation may be the first in American history that fails to exceed their parents' standard of living, and that rather than depend on the great advances of the past, we must find new solutions to overcome the challenges facing us.
A critical voice in the debates over economic stagnation, The Rise and Fall of American Growth is at once a tribute to a century of radical change and a harbinger of tougher times to come.
Robert J. Gordon is the Stanley G. Harris Professor in the Social Sciences at Northwestern University. His books include Productivity Growth, Inflation, and Unemployment and Macroeconomics. Gordon was included in the 2013 Bloomberg list of the nation’s most influential thinkers.
"Robert Gordon, author of The Rise and Fall of American Growth, which is the Thomas Piketty-esque economic must read of the year, is gaining traction in policy circles with a persuasive argument that the inventions that drove growth and productivity over the last 100 years or so weren’t the personal computer or the Internet, but the internal combustion engine, indoor plumbing and electricity. . . . His conclusion: unless the techno-optimists come up with some really seismic invention quickly, our children are likely to be worse off economically. . . . Those who keep track of such things should bone up on their Gordon."--Rana Foroohar, Time
"[T]his is a book well worth reading--a magisterial combination of deep technological history, vivid portraits of daily life over the past six generations and careful economic analysis. . . . This book will challenge your views about the future; it will definitely transform how you see the past."--Paul Krugman, New York Times Book Review
"[An] authoritative examination of innovation through the ages."--Neil Irwin, New York Times
"Robert Gordon has written a magnificent book on the economic history of the United States over the last one and a half centuries. . . . The book is without peer in providing a statistical analysis of the uneven pace of growth and technological change, in describing the technologies that led to the remarkable progress during the special century, and in concluding with a provocative hypothesis that the future is unlikely to bring anything approaching the economic gains of the earlier period. . . . If you want to understand our history and the economic dilemmas faced by the nation today, you can spend many a fruitful hour reading Gordon’s landmark study."--William D. Nordhaus, New York Review of Books
"Mr. Gordon uses exhaustive historic data to buttress his thesis."--Greg Ip, Wall Street Journal
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