Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 175–221 | Cite as

Distance to the pre-industrial technological frontier and economic development

  • Ömer Özak


This research explores the effects of distance to the pre-industrial technological frontiers on comparative economic development in the course of human history. It establishes theoretically and empirically that distance to the frontier had a persistent non-monotonic effect on a country’s pre-industrial economic development. In particular, advancing a novel measure of the travel time to the technological frontiers, the analysis establishes a robust persistent U-shaped relation between distance to the frontier and pre-industrial economic development across countries. Moreover, it demonstrates that countries, which throughout the last two millennia were relatively more distant from these frontiers, have higher contemporary levels of innovation and entrepreneurial activity, suggesting that distance from the frontier may have fostered the emergence of a culture conducive to innovation, knowledge creation, and entrepreneurship.


Comparative development Geographical distance Culture and technology Innovation Technological diffusion and imitation Patenting activity Entrepreneurship 

JEL Classification

F15 F43 N70 O10 O31 O33 Z10 

Supplementary material

10887_2018_9154_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2.9 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 2969 KB)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsSouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA

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