Emerging Tech

Long-term Barriers To The International Diffusion Of Innovations

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Executive Summary

The authors document an empirical relationship between the cross-country adoption of technologies and the degree of long-term historical relatedness between human populations. Historical relatedness is measured using genetic distance, a measure of the time since two populations' last common ancestors. They find that the measure of human relatedness that is relevant to explain international technology diffusion is genetic distance relative to the world technological frontier ("Relative frontier distance"). This evidence is consistent with long-term historical relatedness acting as a barrier to technology adoption: societies that are more distant from the technological frontier tend to face higher imitation costs.

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