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Firm-level productivity studies: Illusions and a solution

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  • Katayama, Hajime
  • Lu, Shihua
  • Tybout, James R.

Abstract

Applied economists often wish to measure the effects of policy changes (like trade liberalization) or managerial decisions (like R&D expenditures or exporting) on firm-level productivity patterns. But firm-level data on physical quantities of output, capital, and intermediate inputs are typically unobservable. Therefore, when constructing productivity measures, most analysts proxy these variables with real sales revenues, depreciated capital spending, and real input expenditures. Our first objective is to argue that the resultant productivity indices have little to do with technical efficiency, product quality, or contributions to social welfare. Nonetheless, they are likely to be correlated with policy shocks and managerial decisions in misleading ways. Our second objective is to develop an alternative approach to inference. We assume firms' costs and revenues reflect a Bertrand-Nash equilibrium in a differentiated product industry, as in Berry [Berry, Steven (1994) "Estimating discrete-choice models of product differentiation," Rand Journal 25(2), pp. 242-262.]. This allows us to impute each firm's unobserved marginal costs and product appeal from its observed revenues and costs. With these in hand, we calculate each firm's contribution to consumer and producer surplus. Further, we link these welfare measures to policy and managerial decisions by assuming that marginal costs and product appeal indices follow vector autoregressive (VAR) processes, conditioned on policy proxies and/or managerial choice variables. We estimate the demand system parameters and VAR parameters jointly using Bayesian techniques. Applying our methodology to panel data on Colombian paper producers, we study the relation between our welfare-based measures and conventional productivity measures. We find that the two are only weakly correlated with one another. Further, they give contrasting pictures of the relationship between firms' performances and their participation in foreign markets. One reason is that product appeal variation has little effect on standard productivity indices, but it is captured by welfare-based performance measures.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal International Journal of Industrial Organization.

Volume (Year): 27 (2009)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 403-413

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Handle: RePEc:eee:indorg:v:27:y:2009:i:3:p:403-413

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505551

Related research

Keywords: Productivity measurement Differentiated products Panel data;

References

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  1. Berry, Steven & Levinsohn, James & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 841-90, July.
  2. Nina Pavcnik, 2000. "Trade Liberalization, Exit, and Productivity Improvements: Evidence from Chilean Plants," NBER Working Papers 7852, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Bernard, Andrew B. & Bradford Jensen, J., 1999. "Exceptional exporter performance: cause, effect, or both?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 1-25, February.
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  8. Klette, Tor Jakob & Griliches, Zvi, 1996. "The Inconsistency of Common Scale Estimators When Output Prices Are Unobserved and Endogenous," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 11(4), pages 343-61, July-Aug..
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  13. Daniel A. Ackerberg & Marc Rysman, 2005. "Unobserved Product Differentiation in Discrete-Choice Models: Estimating Price Elasticities and Welfare Effects," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(4), pages 771-788, Winter.
  14. Sofronis Clerides & Saul Lach & James Tybout, 1996. "Is "Learning-by-Exporting" Important? Micro-Dynamic Evidence from Colombia, Mexico and Morocco," NBER Working Papers 5715, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Tybout, James R. & Westbrook, M. Daniel, 1995. "Trade liberalization and the dimensions of efficiency change in Mexican manufacturing industries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1-2), pages 53-78, August.
  16. Aw, Bee Yan & Chen, Xiaomin & Roberts, Mark J., 2001. "Firm-level evidence on productivity differentials and turnover in Taiwanese manufacturing," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 51-86, October.
  17. James Levinsohn & Amil Petrin, 2003. "Estimating Production Functions Using Inputs to Control for Unobservables," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(2), pages 317-341, 04.
  18. Steven T. Berry, 1994. "Estimating Discrete-Choice Models of Product Differentiation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(2), pages 242-262, Summer.
  19. Kajal Lahiri & Jian Gao, 2001. "Bayesian Analysis of Nested Logit Model by Markov Chain Monte Carlo," Discussion Papers 01-14, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
  20. Bahk, Byong-Hong & Gort, Michael, 1993. "Decomposing Learning by Doing in New Plants," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(4), pages 561-83, August.
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  23. Griliches, Zvi & Regev, Haim, 1995. "Firm productivity in Israeli industry 1979-1988," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 175-203, January.
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