The size, concentration and evolution of corporate R&D spending in U.S. firms from 1976 to 2010: Evidence and implications
The use of research and development (R&D) spending as an empirical proxy for managerial discretion, information asymmetry and growth opportunities, is pervasive in empirical corporate finance research. Underlying this is the implicit assumption that firms choose levels of R&D to maximize value, given firm and industry characteristics. An alternative framework views the level of R&D spending as subject to idiosyncratic behavior as managers myopically manipulate R&D expenditures to meet short-term earnings goals. Using aggregate firm and industry level data, we find evidence consistent with the view that R&D is determined by firm and industry characteristics. Time invariant firm and industry fixed effects explain most of the cross-sectional variation in observed R&D spending, while time-varying factors like size, profitability, or market-to-book explain little of the cross-sectional variation. We find that R&D spending continues to grow faster than advertising and capital expenditures. We also find no evidence of managerial myopia as corporate aggregate R&D expenditures are growing faster than aggregate profitability and the number of firms that undertake R&D has increased over the period from 1976 to 2010.
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