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Toward an Understanding of Learning by Doing: Evidence from an Automobile Assembly Plant

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  • Steven D. Levitt
  • John A. List
  • Chad Syverson

Abstract

We investigate learning by doing using detailed data from a major auto producer’s assembly plant. We focus on the acquisition, aggregation, transmission, and embodiment of the knowledge stock built through learning. We find that most knowledge was not retained by plant workers despite their importance as a learning conduit. This is consistent with the plant’s systems for productivity measurement and improvement. We further explore how learning at the hundreds of processes along the production line undergirds plantwide productivity. Our results shed light on how productivity gains accrue at the plant level and how firms apply managerial inputs to expand production.

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File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/10.1086/671137
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File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/671137
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 121 (2013)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 643 - 681

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/671137

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Cited by:
  1. Weber, Henning, 2013. "Learning By Doing in New Firms and the Optimal Rate of Inflation," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79761, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  2. Carolyn D. Egelman & Dennis Epple & Linda Argote & Erica R.H. Fuchs, 2013. "Learning by Doing in a Multi-Product Manufacturing Environment: Product Variety, Customizations, and Overlapping Product Generations," NBER Working Papers 19674, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Peter Thompson, 2012. "The Relationship between Unit Cost and Cumulative Quantity and the Evidence for Organizational Learning-by-Doing," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 203-24, Summer.
  4. Don Drummond & Annette Ryan & Michael R. Veall, 2013. "Improving Canada's Productivity Performance: The Potential Contribution of Firm-level Productivity Research," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 26, pages 86-93, Fall.

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