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Technology Capital and the US Current Account

  • Ellen R. McGrattan
  • Edward C. Prescott

The US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates that the return on investments of foreign subsidiaries of US multinational companies over the period 1982-2006 averaged 9.4 percent annually after taxes; US subsidiaries of foreign multinationals averaged only 3.2 percent. BEA returns on foreign direct investment (FDI) are distorted because most intangible investments made by multinationals are expensed. We develop a multicountry general equilibrium model with an essential role for FDI and apply the BEA's methodology to construct economic statistics for the model economy. We estimate that mismeasurement of intangible investments accounts for over 60 percent of the difference in BEA returns. (JEL F23, F32)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 100 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (September)
Pages: 1493-1522

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:100:y:2010:i:4:p:1493-1522
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.100.4.1493
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  1. Edward Prescott & Ellen McGrattan, 2007. "Technology Capital and the U.S. Current Account," 2007 Meeting Papers 90, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 2004. "The Unsustainable US Current Account Position Revisited," NBER Working Papers 10869, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Hausmann, Ricardo & Sturzenegger, Federico, 2006. "Global Imbalances or Bad Accounting? The Missing Dark Matter in the Wealth of Nations," Working Paper Series rwp06-003, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  4. Carol Corrado & John Haltiwanger & Dan Sichel, 2005. "Measuring Capital in the New Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number corr05-1, September.
  5. Stephanie E. Curcuru & Tomas Dvorak & Francis E. Warnock, 2008. "Cross-border returns differentials," International Finance Discussion Papers 921, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  6. Alessandra Fogli & Fabrizio Perri, 2006. "The Great Moderation and the U.S. External Imbalance," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 24(S1), pages 209-225, December.
  7. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Hélène Rey, 2007. "From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: U.S. External Adjustment and the Exorbitant Privilege," NBER Chapters, in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 11-66 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2008. "Openness, technology capital, and development," Staff Report 396, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  9. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2005. "Taxes, Regulations, and the Value of U.S. and U.K. Corporations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(3), pages 767-796.
  10. Andrew Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Peter Schott, 2008. "Transfer Pricing by U.S.-Based Multinational Firms," Working Papers 08-29, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  11. Enrique G. Mendoza & Vincenzo Quadrini & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2007. "Financial Integration, Financial Deepness and Global Imbalances," NBER Working Papers 12909, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Bridgman, Benjamin, 2014. "Do intangible assets explain high U.S. foreign direct investment returns?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 159-171.
  13. Caballero, Ricardo J. & Farhi, Emmanuel & Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier, 2008. "An Equilibrium Model of "Global Imbalances" and Low Interest Rates," Scholarly Articles 3229094, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  14. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2003. "Average Debt and Equity Returns: Puzzling?," Levine's Working Paper Archive 506439000000000367, David K. Levine.
  15. Carol Corrado & John Haltiwanger & Daniel Sichel, 2005. "Introduction to "Measuring Capital in the New Economy"," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Capital in the New Economy, pages 1-10 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. David Backus & Espen Henriksen & Frederic Lambert & Chris Telmer, 2005. "Current Account Fact and Fiction," 2005 Meeting Papers 115, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  17. Ayanian, Robert, 1975. "Advertising and Rate of Return," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 479-506, October.
  18. Carol Corrado & Charles R. Hulten & Daniel E. Sichel, 2004. "Measuring capital and technology: an expanded framework," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2004-65, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  19. Demsetz, Harold, 1979. "Accounting for Advertising as a Barrier to Entry," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 345-60, July.
  20. Bloch, Harry, 1974. "Advertising and Profitability: A Reappraisal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(2), pages 267-86, Part I, M.
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