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Computers, obsolescence, and productivity

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  • Karl Whelan

Abstract

This paper examines the role that computers have played in boosting U.S. economic growth in recent years. The paper focuses on two effects--the effect of increased productivity in the computer-producing sector and the effect of investments in computing equipment on the productivity of those who use them--and concludes that together they account for almost all of the recent acceleration in U.S. labor productivity. In calculating the computer-usage effect, standard NIPA measures of the capital stock are inappropriate for growth accounting because they do not account for technological obsolescence; this occurs when a machine that is still productive is retired because it is no longer near the technological frontier. Using a theoretical framework that explicitly accounts for technological obsolescence, alternative estimates of the computer capital stock are developed that imply larger effects on growth of computer capital accumulation than are suggested by the NIPA stocks.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2000-06.

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Date of creation: 2000
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2000-06

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Keywords: Productivity ; Computers;

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  1. Triplett, Jack E, 1996. "Depreciation in Production Analysis and in Income and Wealth Accounts: Resolution of an Old Debate," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 34(1), pages 93-115, January.
  2. Austan Goolsbee, 1998. "The Business Cycle, Financial Performance, and the Retirement of Capital Goods," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(2), pages 474-496, April.
  3. Hulten, Charles R & Wykoff, Frank C, 1996. "Issues in the Measurement of Economic Depreciation: Introductory Remarks," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 34(1), pages 10-23, January.
  4. Stephen D. Oliner, 1990. "Constant-quality price change, depreciation, and retirement of mainframe computers," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 110, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  5. Feldstein, Martin S & Rothschild, Michael, 1974. "Towards an Economic Theory of Replacement Investment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(3), pages 393-423, May.
  6. Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 1994. "Computers and Output Growth Revisited: How Big Is the Puzzle?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 273-334.
  7. Stiroh, Kevin J, 1998. "Computers, Productivity, and Input Substitution," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(2), pages 175-91, April.
  8. Hulten, Charles R. & Wykoff, Frank C., 1981. "The estimation of economic depreciation using vintage asset prices : An application of the Box-Cox power transformation," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 367-396, April.
  9. Kevin J. Stiroh & Dale W. Jorgenson, 1999. "Information Technology and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 109-115, May.
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