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Estimating the Knowledge-Capital Model of the Multinational Enterprise: Comment

  • Bruce A. Blonigen
  • Ronald B. Davies
  • Keith Head

A recent American Economic Review article by David L. Carr, James R. Markusen, and Keith E. Maskus (CMM) estimates a regression specification based upon the 'knowledge-capital' model of the Multinational Enterprise (MNE). The knowledge-capital model combines 'horizontal' motivations for FDI -- the desire to place production close to customers and thereby avoid trade costs -- with 'vertical' motivations -- the desire to carry out unskilled-labor intensive production activities in locations with relatively abundant unskilled labor. The CMM estimates pool inward and outward U.S. affiliate sales data from 1986 through 1994 and appear to support the knowledge-capital model of the MNE. We show that CMM's empirical framework mis-specifies the terms measuring differences in skilled-labor abundance, key variables that identify vertical MNE motivations. After correcting this specification error estimates no longer reject the horizontal model in favor of the knowledge-capital model. Instead, the data strongly support the predictions of the horizontal model of MNEs: affiliate activity between countries decreases as absolute differences in skill-labor abundance widen. Qualitatively identical results are also found using data that include a wider variety of parent and host countries, including data for the OECD.

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

Volume (Year): 93 (2003)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 980-994

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:93:y:2003:i:3:p:980-994
Note: DOI: 10.1257/000282803322157214
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  1. James R. Markusen & Anthony J. Venables, 1996. "The Theory of Endowment, Intra-Industry, and Multinational Trade," NBER Working Papers 5529, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Frankel, Jeffrey A, 1979. "On the Mark: A Theory of Floating Exchange Rates Based on Real Interest Differentials," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(4), pages 610-22, September.
  3. Markusen, James R. & Venables, Anthony J. & Eby Konan, Denise & Zhang, Kevin H., 1996. "A Unified Treatment of Horizontal Direct Investment, Vertical Direct Investment, and the Pattern of Trade in Goods and Services," Working Paper Series 465, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  4. James R. Markusen, 1997. "Trade versus Investment Liberalization," NBER Working Papers 6231, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Helpman, Elhanan, 1984. "A Simple Theory of International Trade with Multinational Corporations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 451-71, June.
  6. Magnus Blomstrom & Linda S. Goldberg, 2001. "Topics in Empirical International Economics: A Festschrift in Honor of Robert E. Lipsey," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number blom01-1.
  7. Slaughter, Matthew J., 2000. "Production transfer within multinational enterprises and American wages," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 449-472, April.
  8. Markusen, James R., 1984. "Multinationals, multi-plant economies, and the gains from trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 205-226, May.
  9. Edward M. Graham & Paul Krugman, 1995. "Foreign Direct Investment in the United States, 3rd Edition," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 52, March.
  10. James R. Markusen & Keith E. Maskus, 1999. "Discriminating Among Alternative Theories of the Multinational Enterprise," NBER Working Papers 7164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond J. Mataloni & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2001. "Expansion Strategies of U.S. Multinational Firms," BEA Papers 0012, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  12. Brainard, S Lael, 1997. "An Empirical Assessment of the Proximity-Concentration Trade-off between Multinational Sales and Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 520-44, September.
  13. Markusen, James R & Venables, Anthony J, 1997. "The Role of Multinational Firms in the Wage-Gap Debate," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(4), pages 435-51, November.
  14. Ignatius J. Horstmann & James R. Markusen, 1990. "Endogenous Market Structures in International Trade," NBER Working Papers 3283, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. James R. Markusen & Anthony J. Venables, 1995. "Multinational Firms and The New Trade Theory," NBER Working Papers 5036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. James R. Markusen & Keith E. Maskus, 2001. "Multinational Firms: Reconciling Theory and Evidence," NBER Chapters, in: Topics in Empirical International Economics: A Festschrift in Honor of Robert E. Lipsey, pages 71-98 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Horstmann, Ignatius J & Markusen, James R, 1987. "Strategic Investments and the Development of Multinationals," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 28(1), pages 109-21, February.
  18. David L. Carr & James R. Markusen & Keith E. Maskus, 2001. "Estimating the Knowledge-Capital Model of the Multinational Enterprise," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 693-708, June.
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