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Corporate Investment: Empirical Evidence for Alternative Propensities


  • Joseph P. Ogden

    () (State University of New York at Buffalo - SUNY School of Management, Buffalo, NY 14260, U.S.A.)

  • Shanhong Wu

    () (University of Arkansas at Fort Smith - UAFS College of Business, Fort Smith, AR 72913, U.S.A.)


We investigate whether previous evidence of the weakness of Tobin's q ratio to explain variation in capital expenditure investment stems from ignoring R&D as an alternative investment. Suppose q theory is true in the general sense that a firm¡¯s incentive to invest increases with its relative market value. However, due to variations in industry technology, individual firms vary in their propensities to make physical vs. intellectual property (IP) investment. The conventionally calculated q failed to make distinction of the propensities for the two investments types, q did a poor job in explaining the firm level investment. We develop a modified q model that account for individual firms' ex ante propensities to make these alternative types of investment. Using data on U.S. firms for 1974-2008, we test the model¡¯s power to explain firm¡¯s investment. The evidence shows strong support for modified model. Q ratio accounting for investment propensities explains more than 27.2% (61%) of capital expenditure (R&D) investment variations compared to about 0.9% (10.6%) obtained via conventional regression. Our approach yields strong and robust support for q theory. To our knowledge, our study is the first to propose a modified q measure to account investment propensity in the empirical corporate investment literature. We also document evidence of the influence of financial constraints on investment.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph P. Ogden & Shanhong Wu, 2015. "Corporate Investment: Empirical Evidence for Alternative Propensities," Review of Economics & Finance, Better Advances Press, Canada, vol. 5, pages 1-21, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bap:journl:150401
    Note: Acknowledgments: For their helpful comments, we thank Bruce Petersen, Richard Smith, Tracy Wang, Neng Wang, Lingling Wang, and seminar participants at the University at Buffalo, the University of Kansas, McMaster University, the 2007 and 2010 FMA meetings, the 2010 FMA European meetings, and the 2011 American Economic Association meeting, where earlier drafts of this paper were presented. This paper is based on Wu¡¯s dissertation completed at the University at Buffalo. Ogden acknowledges support from a UB SOM Summer Research grant.

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Corporate investment; Tobin's q; Capital expenditures; R&D; Propensity;

    JEL classification:

    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing


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