John Tang on A tale of two SICs: industrial development in Japan and the United States in the late nineteenth century


Late developing countries are able to adopt best practice technologies pioneered abroad, allowing more rapid convergence toward leading economies. Meiji Japan (1868-1912) is considered a successful example of industrial convergence, but much of the evidence relies on national aggregates or selected industries.

Using historical industry data, this paper examines whether Japan adopted new technologies faster compared to the United States. Contrary to conventional wisdom, duration analysis indicates that new sectors did not appear relatively sooner in Japan; however, they did grow to economic significance faster. Higher firm capitalization and capital intensity are also found to be associated with earlier entry for Japanese sectors.


John Tang is a lecturer at the Research School of Economics, at ANU College of Business and Economics. He obtained a PhD in Economics from the University
of California, Berkeley. Dr Tang’s main research interests include economic history, economic growth, international economics, applied microeconomics and environment economics. He has published with journals including Economic History Review and Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy. He is the primary investigator for the research project ‘Understanding industrialisation, entrepreneurship, and technology adoption in emerging economies: New evidence from historical Japanese firms’ with grant from the Australian Research Council.

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