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Groningen Growth and Development Centre

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In Memoriam: Dale Jorgenson and the GGDC

Date:24 June 2022
Dale Jorgenson at the GGDC Conference of 2017
Dale Jorgenson at the GGDC Conference of 2017

It was with deep sadness that we learned that Dale Jorgenson had died on 8 June 2022 at the age of 89. His contributions to economics over the past 60 years have been broad and deep, as described at length by John Fernald in his intellectual biography. His in memoriam at VoxEU zooms in on his contributions to the theory of investment, the theory of productivity and economic measurement. Here, we want to focus on what Dale has meant to us and to productivity research in Groningen, more in general.

Dale’s engagement with Groningen research spans almost 30 years, starting with a discussion of work by Bart van Ark and Dirk Pilat on comparative productivity levels in Germany, Japan and the United States. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. Dale  always played the long game, especially when it comes to matters of productivity measurement, from the development of theory (in the 1960s), via early application in applied research (in the 1980s) to widespread adoption in official statistics (in the 2000s). It involved ripening minds for improving on the simplifying assumptions and stimulating the adoption of the framework he contributed so much to developing. Our cooperation furthered these long-term goals, in particular in developing growth accounting data in Europe and worldwide.

Dale’s approach to research cooperation was built on strong encouragement, support and emphasis on the benefits of coordination in networks. Research efforts increase in value when carried out in parallel in more countries to allow for international comparisons. As a result, he travelled around the world to rally support in academic, statistical and policy circles. Dale made sure, in his public lectures, to refer to the efforts of others to further the broader agenda of improved productivity measurement. He was equally staunch in his support behind the scenes. His efforts were instrumental in convincing the European Commission to fund the EU KLEMS project, a major academic undertaking that started in 2003 and which brought Jorgensonian industry-level growth accounting data to Europe. The GGDC was one of the leading partners in this project and we benefited immensely from Dale’s support.

To our delight, Dale was a frequent visitor of Groningen. He gave a dinner speech at the final EU KLEMS conference in 2008, he was one of the first to give a Maddison Lecture, in 2012, and he opened the GGDC 25th Anniversary Conference in 2017. He served on the Advisory Board of the SOM Research School for many years. He also organized the World KLEMS conferences with always a steady number of GGDC contributions. These were often held at Harvard and brought together researchers from Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America to discuss progress on the agenda of improved and more extensive productivity measurement. Together with his wife, Linda, they were welcoming and gracious hosts, ensuring that all those present felt welcome and appreciated.

Dale’s legacy will endure, through all the seeds that have been planted around the world and over the decades, and his tireless efforts to convince academics and statisticians to move closer to his vision of economic measurement. We in Groningen are very grateful to have known him, to have been able to contribute to his vision and to have benefited so long from his support. We will miss him.