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Why Are Americans More Productive Than Canadians?

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  • Andrew Sharpe

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Abstract

The objective of this paper is to document the evolution of the Canada-U.S. labour productivity gap and to offer an explanation of why Americans have been and continue to be, on average, more productive than Canadians. This focus on relative productivity levels is in contrast to the typical focus on the gap between productivity growth rates in Canada and the United States. The paper finds that Canada’s level of output per person employed was 81.0 per cent of the U.S. level in 2002. This was the lowest relative level since the late 1960s. The general conclusions on the size of the output per hour gap are that output per hour has always been below that in the United States, the productivity gap has increased in the 1990s, particularly since 1994, and the current gap is between 11 and 19 percentage points depending on the source of hours data used. Five main reasons are advanced for this, namely: the lower capital intensity of economic activity in Canada; an innovation gap in Canada relative to the United States; Canada’s relatively underdeveloped high-tech sector; less developed human capital in Canada in terms of proportionately fewer university graduates and scientists and engineers in research and development; and more limited economies of scale and scope in Canada.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for the Study of Living Standards in its series CSLS Research Reports with number 2003-03.

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Date of creation: Jun 2003
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Handle: RePEc:sls:resrep:0303

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Keywords: Productivity; Canada; United States; Employment; Hours; Hours of Work; Capital; International Comparisons; Purchasing Power Parity; Labour Productivity Gap; Level Gap; Alternative Data Sources;

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References

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  1. Jianmin Tang & Frank C. Lee, 2000. "Productivity Levels and International Competitiveness between Canadian and U.S. Industries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 176-179, May.
  2. Andrew Sharpe, 2002. "Productivity Concepts, Trends And Prospects: An Overview," The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress, in: Andrew Sharpe, Executive Director & France St-Hilaire, Vice-President , Research & Keith Banting, Di (ed.), The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress 2002: Towards a Social Understanding of Productivity, volume 2 Centre for the Study of Living Standards & The Institutute for Research on Public Policy.
  3. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1996. "The Productivity of Nations," NBER Working Papers 5812, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2000. "Gravity with Gravitas: A Solution to the Border Puzzle," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 485, Boston College Department of Economics.
  5. Jeremy Smith, 2003. "International Productivity Comparisons: An Examination of Data Sources," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 6, pages 64-71, Spring.
  6. Tang, Jianmin & Baldwin, John R. & Jarmin , Ron S., 2002. "The Trend to Smaller Producers in Manufacturing: A Canada/U.S. Comparison," Economic Analysis (EA) Research Paper Series 2002003e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  7. Martin Neil Baily & Robert M. Solow, 2001. "International Productivity Comparisons Built from the Firm Level," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 151-172, Summer.
  8. Someshwar Rao & Ashfaq Ahmad & William Horsman & Phaedra Kaptein-Russell, 2001. "The Importance of Innovation for Productivity," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 2, pages 11-18, Spring.
  9. Jeffrey I. Bernstein & Richard G. Harris & Andrew Sharpe, 2002. "The Widening Canada-US Productivity Gap in Manufaturing," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 5, pages 3-22, Fall.
  10. W. Erwin Diewert, 2003. "Measuring Capital," NBER Working Papers 9526, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Lars Osberg & Andrew Sharpe, 2010. "The Index of Economic Well-Being," Challenge, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 53(4), pages 25-42, July.
  12. Dachraoui, Kais & Harchaoui, Tarek, 2003. "A Frontier Approach to Canada-U.S. Multifactor Productivity Performance," Economic Analysis (EA) Research Paper Series 2003010e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  13. Osberg, Lars & Sharpe, Andrew, 2002. "An Index of Economic Well-Being for Selected OECD Countries," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 48(3), pages 291-316, September.
  14. Someshwar Rao & Jianmin Tang & Weimin Wang, 2002. "The Importance of Skills for Innovation and Productivity," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 4, pages 15-26, Spring.
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Cited by:
  1. Larochelle-Cote, Sebastien & Heisz, Andrew, 2007. "Understanding Regional Differences in Work Hours," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2007293e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  2. Centre for the Study of Living Standards, 2005. "What Explains the Canada-US ICT Investment Intensity Gap?," CSLS Research Reports 2005-06, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
  3. Andrew Sharpe, 2004. "Ten Productivity Puzzles Facing Researchers," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 9, pages 15-24, Fall.
  4. Jeremy Smith, 2004. "Aggregate Labour Productivity Growth in Canada and the United States: Definitions, Trends and Measurement Issues," CSLS Research Reports 2004-04, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
  5. Jean-Francois Arsenault & Andrew Sharpe, 2008. "An Analysis of the Causes of Weak Labour Productivity Growth in Canada since 2000," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 16, pages 14-39, Spring.
  6. Jeremy Smith, 2004. "Assessing Aggregate Labour Productivity Trends in Canada and the United States: Total Economy versus Business Sector Perspectives," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 8, pages 47-58, Spring.
  7. Someshwar Rao & Jianmin Tang & Weimin Wang, 2003. "Canada's Recent Productivity Record and Capital Accumulation," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 7, pages 24-38, Fall.
  8. Tanguay, Marc & Wong, Fanny & Baldwin, John R. & Maynard, Jean-Pierre & Yan, Beiling, 2005. "Comparaison des niveaux de productivite au Canada et aux Etats-Unis : etude de certains aspects de la mesure," Serie de documents de recherche sur l'analyse economique (AE) 2005028f, Statistics Canada, Direction des etudes analytiques.

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