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Is the U.S. Aggregate Production Function Cobb-Douglas? New Estimates of the Elasticity of Substitution

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  • Antràs Pol

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

I present new estimates of the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor using data from the private sector of the U.S. economy for the period 1948-1998. I first adopt Berndt's (1976) specification, which assumes that technological change is Hicks neutral. Consistently with his results, I estimate elasticities of substitution that are not significantly different from one. I next show, however, that restricting the analysis to Hicks-neutral technological change necessarily biases the estimates of the elasticity towards one. When I modify the econometric specification to allow for biased technical change, I obtain significantly lower estimates of the elasticity of substitution. I conclude that the U.S. economy is not well described by a Cobb-Douglas aggregate production function. I present estimates based on both classical regression analysis and time series analysis. In the process, I deal with issues related to the nonsphericality of the disturbances, the endogeneity of the regressors, and the nonstationarity of the series involved in the estimation.

Suggested Citation

  • Antràs Pol, 2004. "Is the U.S. Aggregate Production Function Cobb-Douglas? New Estimates of the Elasticity of Substitution," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 1-36, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejmac:v:contributions.4:y:2004:i:1:n:4
    DOI: 10.2202/1534-6005.1161
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    JEL classification:

    • C22 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Time-Series Models; Dynamic Quantile Regressions; Dynamic Treatment Effect Models; Diffusion Processes
    • E13 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Neoclassical
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth

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