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Accounting for productivity: Is it OK to assume that the world is Cobb-Douglas?

  • Aiyar, Shekhar
  • Dalgaard, Carl-Johan

The development accounting literature almost always assumes a Cobb-Douglas (CD) production function. However, if in reality the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor deviates substantially from 1, the assumption is invalid, potentially casting doubt on the commonly held view that factors of production are relatively unimportant in accounting for differences in labor productivity. We use international data on relative factor shares and capital-output ratios to formulate a number of tests for the validity of the CD assumption. We find that the CD specification performs reasonably well for the purposes of cross-country productivity accounting.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Macroeconomics.

Volume (Year): 31 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)
Pages: 290-303

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jmacro:v:31:y:2009:i:2:p:290-303
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622617

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  1. Shekhar Aiyar & Carl-Johan Dalgaard, 2004. "Total Factor Productivity Revisited: A Dual Approach to Development Accounting," EPRU Working Paper Series 04-07, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  2. Chris Papageorgiou & Fidel Pérez Sebastián & John Duffy, 2002. "Capital-Skill Complementarity? Evidence From A Panel Of Countries," Working Papers. Serie AD 2002-09, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  3. J. D. Pitchpord, 1960. "GROWTH and THE ELASTICITY OF FACTOR SUBSTITUTION-super-1," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 36(76), pages 491-504, December.
  4. Hendricks, Lutz A., 2002. "How Important is Human Capital for Development? Evidence from Immigrant Earnings," Staff General Research Papers 11409, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  5. Galor, Oded, 1996. "Convergence? Inferences from Theoretical Models," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(437), pages 1056-69, July.
  6. Charles I. Jones & Dean Scrimgeour, 2008. "A New Proof of Uzawa's Steady-State Growth Theorem," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(1), pages 180-182, February.
  7. Douglas Gollin, 2001. "Getting Income Shares Right," Department of Economics Working Papers 2001-11, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  8. Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Labor- and Capital- Augmenting Technical Change," NBER Working Papers 7544, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Ben S. Bernanke & Kenneth Rogoff, 2001. "NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2000, Volume 15," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bern01-1.
  10. Diego Restuccia, 2004. "Barriers to Capital Accumulation and Aggregate Total Factor Productivity," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(1), pages 225-238, 02.
  11. Diamond, Peter & McFadden, Daniel & Rodriguez, Miguel, 1978. "Measurement of the Elasticity of Factor Substitution and Bias of Technical Change," Histoy of Economic Thought Chapters, in: Fuss, Melvyn & McFadden, Daniel (ed.), Production Economics: A Dual Approach to Theory and Applications, volume 2, chapter 5 McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought.
  12. Duffy, John & Papageorgiou, Chris, 2000. " A Cross-Country Empirical Investigation of the Aggregate Production Function Specification," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 87-120, March.
  13. Carl-Johan Dalgaard & Martin Kaae Jensen, 2007. "Life Cycle Savings, Bequest, and the Diminishing Impact of Scale on Growth," Discussion Papers 07-17, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
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