Robert J. Gordon

Stanley G. Harris Professor in the Social Sciences, Northwestern University
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Bloomberg's Fifty Most Influential 2016

Robert J. Gordon is one of the world’s most influential economists. He has attracted worldwide attention from academics, print media, and the blogosphere by his controversial analysis predicting that future economic growth in the U. S. will be a mere fraction of its historic rate. He was selected for the Politico 50, those shaping the political debate in 2016 and on Bloomberg's Fifty Most Influential 2016 list. In 2013 he was selected one of Bloomberg’s Top 10 Most Influential Thinkers.

In his acclaimed and best-selling 2016 book, The Rise and fall of American Growth, Bob argues that the true driver of economic growth over the last century was a series of one-time inventions whose impact has come and passed. Electricity, internal combustion engine, running water, indoor toilets, communications, entertainment, chemicals, petroleum — these created a wave of growth unmatched in human history. But they have had their effect: they have created all the U.S. growth they ever will. And the current wave of online and mobile innovations, by contrast, will never create the same sort of boom in growth that those more fundamental industrial innovations did.

What's more, the U.S. is facing six devastating factors that will slow any growth that could come from new innovations: demography, education, inequality, globalization, energy/environment, and debt. Between the loss of life-changing innovation and the drag of these six "headwinds", U.S. growth could fall below 0.5 percent per year for decades.

This new research joins his earlier studies showing that conventional data greatly understate the welfare of Europe relative to the U.S.; why European productivity growth has lagged that of the U.S. since 1995; why U.S. income inequality has widened since 1975; and why unemployment increased so much relative to the behavior of output in the 2008-09 U.S. recession.

Robert's books include Macroeconomics, twelfth edition, which has been translated into eight languages, and three scholarly books: The Measurement of Durable Goods Prices, The American Business Cycle, and The Economics of New Goods. His book of collected essays is Productivity Growth, Inflation, and Unemployment.

Robert J. Gordon is the Stanley G. Harris Professor in the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Northwestern University. He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association. He is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a member of the NBER’s Business Cycle Dating Committee, a Research Fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (London) and the Observatoire Français des Conjunctures Economiques (OFCE, Paris), and an economic adviser to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.


The Rise and Fall of American Growth

Growth in American output (real GDP) roared ahead at 3.8 percent per year between 1947 and 1974, then slowed to 3.2 percent from 1974 to 2004, and since 2004 has dropped by half to a mere 1.6 percent per year. What caused this slowdown? Is the era of rapid growth over? The answers come from a comparison of the digital revolution with earlier waves of invention that brought us electricity, the internal combustion engine, and many others. Slow growth also reflects the “headwinds” of education, demography, and inequality that hold back the improvement in the standard of living of the average American.

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The Productivity Puzzle and the Future of Innovation

America’s future is clouded by the abysmal 0.5 percent annual growth rate of labor productivity (output per hour) achieved since 2010. How can this sluggish performance be reconciled with the frenetic pace of innovation, ample venture capital investment, and the frequent birth of new billion-dollar “unicorn” companies? This puzzle is addressed by examining the achievements and limitations of robots, artificial intelligence, big data, 3-D printing, medical research, and self-driving vehicles.

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Insights into the U.S. Economic Outlook

The economic outlook three to five years in the future hinges on the interplay between unemployment, inflation, and the response of monetary policy. The author’s own research provides new insights on the future behavior of the inflation rate, wage changes, and productivity growth. Attention is also given to the exchange rate of the dollar and the labor force participation rate. Consideration is given to risks in the outlook and their potential impact on the monetary policy response.

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The death of innovation, the end of growth | TED
Robert J. Gordon


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G force
The Economist
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Interview with Professor Robert Gordon
Prospect Magazine
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Is US economic growth over? Faltering innovation confronts the six
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Paul Krugman Reviews ‘The Rise and Fall of American Growth’
The New York Times
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US economy: The productivity puzzle
The Financial Times
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Why Innovation Won’t Save Us
The Wall Street Journal


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