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Vol. 84, No. 2
Posted 2002-03-01

The High-Tech Investment Boom and Economic Growth in the 1990s: Accounting for Quality

by Michael R. Pakko

The rapid pace of economic growth in the 1990s was associated with an increasingly prominent role for investment, particularly for information processing and communications technologies. Given the evident pace of technological advancement in these sectors, official economic statistics have been constructed to take careful account of improvements in the quality of these high-tech capital goods. In this article, Michael R. Pakko examines the possibility that this selective accounting for quality improvement has distorted the true importance of high-tech investment in recent economic growth trends. After constructing alternative measures of investment spending that are adjusted for quality change that may go unmeasured in the official data, he finds that the increasing importance of high-tech investment revealed in the official data is quite robust: The prominent role of investment spending during the 1990s—particularly for high-tech capital goods—does, in fact, represent a significant departure from past trends in the composition of U.S. economic growth.

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