The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

General Purpose Technologies

  • Peter L. Rousseau
Reference work entry


Economists have come to use the term ‘general purpose technology’ (GPT) to describe technological advances that pervade many sectors, improve rapidly, and spawn further innovations. This article addresses the concept of a GPT by example, showing the extent to which electricity and information technology might qualify as members of this special class of inventions, as opposed to more ordinary ones.


Diffusion of technology Electricity General purpose technologies Growth, models of Information technology and economic growth Innovation Intertemporal substitution Patents Productivity growth Skill premium Technical change 

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The author acknowledges financial support from the National Science Foundation.


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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter L. Rousseau
    • 1
  1. 1.