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Learning by Doing and Plant Characteristics

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  • Ron Jarmin

Abstract

Learning by doing, especially spillover learning, has received much attention lately in models of industry evolution and economic growth. The predictions of these models depend on the distribution of learning abilities and knowledge flows across firms and countries. However, the empirical literature provides little guidance on these issues. In this paper, I use plant level data on a sample of entrants in SIC 38, Instruments, to examine the characteristics associated with both proprietary and spillover learning by doing. The plant level data permit tests for the relative importance of within and between firm spillovers. I include both formal knowledge, obtained through R&D expenditures, and informal knowledge, obtained through learning by doing, in a production function framework. I allow the speed of learning to vary across plants according to characteristics such as R&D intensity, wages, and the skill mix. The results suggest that (a) Ainformal@ knowledge, accumulated through production experience at the plant, is a much more important source of productivity growth for these plants than is Aformal@ knowledge gained via research and development expenditures, (b) interfirm spillovers are stronger than intrafirm spillovers, (c) the slope of the own learning curve is positively related to worker quality, (d) the slope of the spillover learning curve is positively related to the skill mix at plants, (e) neither own nor spillover learning curve slopes are related to R&D intensities. These results imply that learning by doing may be, to some extent, an endogenous phenomenon at these plants. Thus, models of industry evolution that incorporate learning by doing may need to be revised. The results are also broadly consistent with the recent growth models.

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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/1996/CES-WP-96-05.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 96-5.

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Date of creation: Aug 1996
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Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:96-5

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Keywords: CES; economic; research; micro; data; microdata; chief; economist;

References

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  1. Bernard, A.B. & Jensen, J.B., 1994. "Exporters, Skill Upgrading, and the Wage Gap," Working papers 94-30, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Ghemawat, Pankaj & Spence, A Michael, 1985. "Learning Curve Spillovers and Market Performance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(5), pages 839-52, Supp..
  3. Griliches, Zvi & Hausman, Jerry A., 1986. "Errors in variables in panel data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 93-118, February.
  4. Young, Alwyn, 1991. "Learning by Doing and the Dynamic Effects of International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 369-405, May.
  5. Irwin, Douglas A & Klenow, Peter J, 1994. "Learning-by-Doing Spillovers in the Semiconductor Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1200-1227, December.
  6. Timothy Dunne & John Haltiwanger & Kenneth R. Troske, 1996. "Technology and Jobs: Secular Changes and Cyclical Dynamics," NBER Working Papers 5656, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Nancy L Stokey, 1986. "Learning-by-Doing and the Introduction of New Goods," Discussion Papers 699, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science, revised May 1987.
  8. 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.
  9. A. M. Spence, 1981. "The Learning Curve and Competition," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(1), pages 49-70, Spring.
  10. Zvi Griliches & Jacques Mairesse, 1981. "Productivity and R and D at the Firm Level," NBER Working Papers 0826, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. James D Adams & Adam B Jaffe, 1994. "The Span of the Effect of R&D in the Firm and Industry," Working Papers 94-7, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  12. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1983. "Learning-by-Doing and Market Performance," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(2), pages 522-530, Autumn.
  13. Alwyn Young, 1991. "Learning by Doing and the Dynamic Effects of International Trade," NBER Working Papers 3577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Jim Bessen, 1997. "Productivity Adjustments and Learning-by-Doing as Human Capital," Working Papers 97-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. C J Krizan, 1998. "Industrial Spillovers in Developing Countries: Plant-level Evidence From Chile, Mexico, and Morocco," Working Papers 98-1, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  3. Bradford J Jensen & Ron Jarmin, 1997. "Measuring The Performance Of Government Technology Programs: Lessons From Manufacturing Extension," Working Papers 97-18, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.

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