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Technology Adoption from Hybrid Corn to Beta-Blockers

Technology Adoption from Hybrid Corn to Beta-Blockers

(p.545) 18 Technology Adoption from Hybrid Corn to Beta-Blockers
Hard-to-Measure Goods and Services
Jonathan SkinnerDouglas Staiger
University of Chicago Press

This chapter returns to a forty-year-old debate between Griliches and sociologists who emphasized the structure of organizations, informal networks, and “change agents” as forces affecting the diffusion of hybrid corn. It considers state-level factors associated with the adoption of a variety of technological innovations over the last seventy-five years: hybrid corn and farm tractors in the first half of the twentieth century, computers in the 1990s, and treatment following heart attacks with beta-blockers during the last decade. It shows that some states consistently adopted new effective technology, whether it be hybrid corn, farm tractors, or effective treatments for prevention of recurrent heart attacks, such as beta-blockers. The adoption of these new highly effective technologies was closely associated with social capital and state-level 1928 high school graduation rates. The chapter suggests that economic models may be useful in identifying why some regions are more likely to adopt early, but sociological barriers—perhaps related to lack of social capital or informational networks—can potentially explain why other regions lag far behind.

Keywords:   Zvi Griliches, sociologists, technological innovations, social capital, graduation rates

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