NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Soviet Economic Decline: Historical and Republican Data

William Easterly, Stanley Fischer

NBER Working Paper No. 4735
Issued in May 1994
NBER Program(s):   EFG

Soviet growth over 1960-89 was the worst in the world after we control for investment and human capital; the relative performance worsens over time. The declining Soviet growth rate over 1950-87 is explained by the declining marginal product of capital; the rate of TFP growth is roughly constant over that period. While the Soviet slowdown has conventionally been attributed to extensive growth (rising capital to output ratios), extensive growth is also a feature of market-oriented economies like Japan and Korea. What led to the relative Soviet decline was a low elasticity of substitution between capital and labor, which caused diminishing returns to capital to be especially acute. Tentative evidence indicates that the burden of defense spending also contributed to the Soviet debacle. Differences in growth performance between the Soviet republics are explained well by some of the same factors that figure in the empirical cross-section growth literature: initial income, human capital, population growth, and the degree of sectoral distortions.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w4735

Published: Easterly, William & Fischer, Stanley, 1995. "The Soviet Economic Decline," World Bank Economic Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(3), pages 341-71, September.

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