David de la Croix, Matthias Doepke, Joel Mokyr, 02 March 2017

The role of specific institutions was important in giving Europe a technological advantage well before the Industrial Revolution. This column argues that apprenticeships were crucial to Europe’s rise. Unlike in the extended families or clans in other parts of the world, apprentices in Europe’s guild systems could learn from any master. New techniques and innovations could thus spread rapidly across the continent, without being constrained by family lines.

Giordano Mion, Luca David Opromolla, Alessandro Sforza, 21 January 2017

Despite the seemingly obvious link between good management and firm performance, establishing a causal link between the two is actually rather tricky. This column examines how Portuguese firms responded to the sudden and unexpected end to the civil war in Angola in 2002, and discovers an immediate spike in export entry rates for firms with at least one manager with previous experience of exporting to Angola. This finding on the impact of acquired knowledge on performance is especially useful for firms looking to operate in foreign markets.

Daron Acemoglu, Ufuk Akcigit, William Kerr, 20 January 2017

Innovation is typically seen as a cumulative process, with new technologies building on existing knowledge - but our knowledge of how progress in a specific area is influenced by knowledge in other, ‘upstream’ areas is limited. Using US patent data, this column identifies a stable ‘innovation network’ that serves as a conduit for cumulative knowledge development. Technological advances in one field can advance progress in multiple neighbouring fields, but will have a stronger influence on more closely related areas.

Francisco Buera, Ezra Oberfield, 12 June 2016

Free trade often comes hand in hand with economic growth. The opportunity for gain is relatively small, according to quantitative models that rely on standard static mechanisms. This column introduces a model to study the diffusion of ideas across countries as a means of increasing productivity, and a quantitative assessment of the role of trade in the transmission of knowledge. How much the transmission of knowledge will impact productivity depends on the openness of the trading countries, current stock of knowledge, and a diffusion parameter.

Roland Bénabou, Davide Ticchi , Andrea Vindigni, 19 April 2015

History offers many examples of the recurring tensions between science and organized religion, but as part of the paper’s motivating evidence we also uncover a new fact: in both international and cross-state U.S. data, there is a significant and robust negative relationship between religiosity and patents per capita. Three long-term outcomes emerge. First, a "Secularization" or "Western-European" regime with declining religiosity, unimpeded science, a passive Church and high levels of taxes and transfers. Second, a "Theocratic" regime with knowledge stagnation, extreme religiosity with no modernization effort, and high public spending on religious public goods. In-between is a third, "American" regime that generally (not always) combines scientific progress and stable religiosity within a range where religious institutions engage in doctrinal adaptation.

Hiroyasu Inoue, Kentaro Nakajima, Yukiko Saito, 11 February 2015

Despite vast improvements in information and communications technology, the tendency of firms in related industries to cluster together hardly changed between 1985 and 2005. This column examines the relationship between geographic clustering and innovation using establishment-level data from Japan. Research establishments – especially those in high-technology industries – are more localised than average. The degree of localisation is greater when establishments are weighted by their creativity, as measured by the number of patents created and the number of citations received.