The Rise and Fall of American Growth
S 2018

    I read The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon last after reading an extremely favorable review of the book in The New Review of Books (August 18, 2016).  Two sentences from the last paragraph of the review, written by William Nordhaus, are. "To summarize, Rise and Fall is a magnificent book on American economic history of the last century and a half. . . . If you want to understand our history and the economic dilemmas faced by the nation today, you can spend many a fruitful hour reading Gordon's landmark study."

    If we discount some of the flowery language, I believe the publishers blurb on the inside of the paper cover of the hardcover edition fairly summarizes the book:

     "In the century after the Civil War, an economic revolution improved the American standard of living in ways previously unimaginable. Electric lighting, indoor plumbing, home appliances, motor vehicles, air travel, air conditioning, and television transformed households and workplaces.  With medical advances, life expectancy grew from forty-five to seventy-two years between 1870 and 1970.  Weaving together a vivid narrative, historical anecdotes, and economic analysis, The Rise and Fall of American Growth provides an in-depth account of this momentous era.  But has the era of unprecedented growth come to an end?

    "Gordon challenges the view that economic growth can or will continue unabated, and he demonstrates that the life-altering scale of innovation between 1870 and 1970 can't be repeated.  He contends that the nation's productivity growth, which has already slowed to a crawl, will be further held back by the vexing headwinds of rising inequality, stagnating education, an aging population, and the rising debt of college students and the federal government.  Gordon warns that the younger generation may be the first in American history that fails to exceed their parents' standard of living, and that rather than depend on the great advances of the past, we must find new solutions to overcome the challenges facing us."