For Export Only: Diffusion Professionals and Population Policy


Export-only diffusion occurs when innovators do not adopt an innovation themselves, but rather promote it to others for adoption. Potential adopters do not take their cues from early adopters, but rather from diffusion professionals who make it their job to spread a practice or institution. The global spread of national-level, population-control policies during the Cold War is one such instance: developed and promoted by wealthy countries that did not themselves adopt such policies, they came to be widespread among poorer countries, thanks in large part to the mobilization of diffusion professionals. This article offers an analytical account of this diffusion, as well as an event-history analysis of 163 countries over the period 1950–1990 demonstrating the importance of linkages between policy adopters and the non-adopting institutions of diffusion professionals.