IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Aggregation in Production Functions: What Applied Economists should Know


  • Jesus Felipe
  • Franklin M. Fisher


There is no subject so old that something new cannot be said about it. (Dostoevsky) Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them? (Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I, Act III, Scene I) This paper surveys the theoretical literature on aggregation of production functions. The objective is to make neoclassical economists aware of the insurmountable aggregation problems and their implications. We refer to both the Cambridge capital controversies and the aggregation conditions. The most salient results are summarized, and the problems that economists should be aware of from incorrect aggregation are discussed. The most important conclusion is that the conditions under which a well-behaved aggregate production function can be derived from micro production functions are so stringent that it is difficult to believe that actual economies satisfy them. Therefore, aggregate production functions do not have a sound theoretical foundation. For practical purposes this means that while generating GDP, for example, as the sum of the components of aggregate demand (or through the production or income sides of the economy) is correct, thinking of GDP as GDP=F(K, L), where K and L are aggregates of capital and labor, respectively, and F(•) is a well-defined neoclassical function, is most likely incorrect. Likewise, thinking of aggregate investment as a well-defined addition to 'capital' in production is also a mistake. The paper evaluates the standard reasons given by economists for continuing to use aggregate production functions in theoretical and applied work, and concludes that none of them provides a valid argument. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2003.

Suggested Citation

  • Jesus Felipe & Franklin M. Fisher, 2003. "Aggregation in Production Functions: What Applied Economists should Know," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2-3), pages 208-262, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:metroe:v:54:y:2003:i:2-3:p:208-262

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: link to full text
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:metroe:v:54:y:2003:i:2-3:p:208-262. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley Content Delivery). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.