Trevor Swan And The Neoclassical Growth Model
NBER Working Paper No. 13950
Trevor Swan independently developed the neoclassical growth model. Swan (1956) was published ten months later than Solow (1956), but included a more complete analysis of technical progress, which Solow treated separately in Solow (1957). Reference is sometimes made to the "Solow-Swan growth model", but more commonly reference is made only to the "Solow growth model". This paper examines the history of Swan's development of the growth model, the similarities and differences between the approaches of Swan and Solow and the reasons why Swan's contribution has been overshadowed. We draw on unpublished work to show that in 1950, Swan was working on a growth model in a verbal format. In 1956, Swan published only a simplified version of his model based on a Cobb-Douglas production function, but Swan's original model (circulated July 1956 and published posthumously in 2002) was much more general. Swan's reluctance to publish was consistent with his perhaps counterproductive modesty and perfectionism. His well known paper, "Longer run problems of the Balance of Payments" was circulated in 1955, eight years before publication in 1963. His pioneering work in 1945, developing the first macroeconomic model of the Australian economy, was published posthumously in 1989.
This paper was revised on December 5, 2011
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13950
Published: Robert W. Dimand & Barbara J. Spencer, 2009. "Trevor Swan and the Neoclassical Growth Model," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 41(5), pages 107-126, Supplemen. citation courtesy of
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