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The role of the elasticity of substitution in economic growth: A cross-country investigation

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  • Mallick, Debdulal

Abstract

Although the importance of the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor (σ) has long been recognized in several branches of economics, it has not received enough attention in the growth literature. de La Grandville (1989) showed theoretically that at any stage of an economy's development, the growth rate of income per capita is increasing with σ. The higher is σ, the greater the similarity between capital and labor in the production function, and thus diminishing returns set in very slowly. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that tests the hypothesis that growth rate is increasing with the value of σ at the cross-country level. We estimate σ for 90 countries from direct estimation of the normalized CES production function and then include these estimators as an explanatory variable in cross-country growth regression. We investigate the sign and significance of the coefficient of σ conditioning on country characteristics, initial conditions, and a set of policy variables. After accounting for endogeneity and the fact that σ is a “generated” regressor, we find strong support for the hypothesis. The result is robust to both Leamer's (1983) extreme value analysis and Bayesian model averaging. About a fifth to a quarter of the growth rate differential between East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa can be explained by σ alone.

Suggested Citation

  • Mallick, Debdulal, 2012. "The role of the elasticity of substitution in economic growth: A cross-country investigation," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(5), pages 682-694.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:labeco:v:19:y:2012:i:5:p:682-694
    DOI: 10.1016/j.labeco.2012.04.003
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert S. Chirinko & Debdulal Mallick, 2014. "The Substitution Elasticity, Factor Shares, Long-Run Growth, and the Low-Frequency Panel Model," CESifo Working Paper Series 4895, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. repec:scn:financ:y:2018:i:1:p:118-127 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Daan Steenkamp, 2018. "Factor Substitution and Productivity in New Zealand," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 94(304), pages 64-79, March.
    4. Obregon, Carlos, 2015. "Piketty is wrong," MPRA Paper 64593, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Ma, Chunbo & Stern, David I., 2016. "Long-run estimates of interfuel and interfactor elasticities," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 114-130.
    6. repec:ebl:ecbull:eb-17-00355 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Robert Z. Lawrence, 2015. "Recent Declines in Labor's Share in US Income: A Preliminary Neoclassical Account," NBER Working Papers 21296, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Knoblach, Michael & Rößler, Martin & Zwerschke, Patrick, 2016. "The Elasticity of Factor Substitution Between Capital and Labor in the U.S. Economy: A Meta-Regression Analysis," CEPIE Working Papers 03/16, Technische Universität Dresden, Center of Public and International Economics (CEPIE).
    9. Rankin Neil & Burger Rulof & Kreuser Friedrich, 2015. "The elasticity of substitution and labour-displacing technical change in post-apartheid South Africa," WIDER Working Paper Series 101, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    10. Emran,M. Shahe & Sun,Yan - GSP05, 2015. "Are the children of uneducated farmers doubly disadvantaged ? farm, nonfarm and intergenerational educational mobility in rural China," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7459, The World Bank.
    11. Lawrence Robert Z., 2015. "Recent Declines in Labor's Share in U.S. Income: A Preliminary Neoclassical Account," Working Paper Series rwp15-034, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    12. repec:aea:aejmac:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:225-53 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Zha, Donglan & Kavuri, Anil Savio & Si, Songjian, 2017. "Energy biased technology change: Focused on Chinese energy-intensive industries," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 190(C), pages 1081-1089.
    14. Paul E. Brockway & Matthew K. Heun & João Santos & John R. Barrett, 2017. "Energy-Extended CES Aggregate Production: Current Aspects of Their Specification and Econometric Estimation," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(2), pages 1-23, February.
    15. repec:ebl:ecbull:eb-17-00354 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Elasticity of substitution; Growth; Generated regressor; Heteroskedasticity-based identification;

    JEL classification:

    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • C31 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models; Quantile Regressions; Social Interaction Models

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