Jesse Perla

Vancouver School of Economics
University of British Columbia

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Institutional Affiliation: University of British Columbia

NBER Working Papers and Publications

January 2017Reconciling Models of Diffusion and Innovation: A Theory of the Productivity Distribution and Technology Frontier
with Jess Benhabib, Christopher Tonetti: w23095
We study how innovation and technology diffusion interact to endogenously determine the shape of the productivity distribution and generate aggregate growth. We model firms that choose to innovate, adopt technology, or produce with their existing technology. Costly adoption creates a spread between the best and worst technologies concurrently used to produce similar goods. The balance of adoption and innovation determines the shape of the distribution; innovation stretches the distribution, while adoption compresses it. On the balanced growth path, the aggregate growth rate equals the maximum growth rate of innovators. While innovation drives long-run growth, changes in the adoption environment can influence growth by affecting innovation incentives, either directly, through licensing of e...
January 2015Equilibrium Technology Diffusion, Trade, and Growth
with Christopher Tonetti, Michael E. Waugh: w20881
We study how opening to trade affects economic growth in a model where heterogeneous firms can adopt new technologies already in use by other firms in their home country. We characterize the growth rate using a summary statistic of the profit distribution—the mean-min ratio. Opening to trade increases the profit spread through increased export opportunities and foreign competition, induces more rapid technology adoption, and generates faster growth. Quantitatively, these forces produce large welfare gains from trade by increasing an inefficiently low rate of technology adoption and economic growth.
May 2012Catch-up and Fall-back through Innovation and Imitation
with Jess Benhabib, Christopher Tonetti: w18091
Will fast growing emerging economies sustain rapid growth rates until they "catch-up" to the technology frontier? Are there incentives for some developed countries to free-ride off of innovators and optimally "fallback" relative to the frontier? This paper models agents growing as a result of investments in innovation and imitation. Imitation facilitates technology diffusion, with the productivity of imitation modeled by a catch-up function that increases with distance to the frontier. The resulting equilibrium is an endogenous segmentation between innovators and imitators, where imitating agents optimally choose to "catch-up" or "fall-back" to a productivity ratio below the frontier.

Published: Jess Benhabib & Jesse Perla & Christopher Tonetti, 2014. "Catch-up and fall-back through innovation and imitation," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 1-35, March. citation courtesy of

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