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Capital-labor substitution, structural change and growth

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  • Alvarez-Cuadrado, Francisco

    () (Department of Economics, McGill University)

  • Long, Ngo

    () (Department of Economics, McGill University)

  • Poschke, Markus

    () (Department of Economics, McGill University)

Abstract

There is growing interest in multi-sector models that combine aggregate balanced growth, consistent with the well-known Kaldor facts, with systematic changes in the sectoral allocation of resources, consistent with the Kuznets facts. Although variations in the income elasticity of demand across goods played an important role in initial approaches, recent models stress the role of supply-side factors in this process of structural change, in particular sector-specific technical change and sectoral differences in factor proportions. We explore a general framework that features an additional supply-side mechanism and also encompasses these two known mechanisms. Our model shows that sectoral differences in the degree of capital-labor substitutability -- a new mechanism -- are a driving force for structural change. When the flexibility to combine capital and labor differs across sectors, a factor rebalancing effect is operative. It tends to make production in the more flexible sector more intensive in the input that becomes more abundant. As a result, growth rates of sectoral capital-labor ratios can differ and, if this effect dominates, shares of each factor used in a given sector can move in different directions. We identify conditions under which this occurs and analyze the dynamics of such a case. We also provide some suggestive evidence consistent with this new mechanism. A quantitative analysis suggests that this channel was an important contributor to structural change out of agriculture in the United States.

Suggested Citation

  • Alvarez-Cuadrado, Francisco & Long, Ngo & Poschke, Markus, 2017. "Capital-labor substitution, structural change and growth," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 12(3), September.
  • Handle: RePEc:the:publsh:2106
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:jmacro:v:56:y:2018:i:c:p:292-310 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Boddin, Dominik & Henze, Philipp, 2015. "International trade and the occupational mix in manufacturing: Evidence from german micro data," Economics Working Papers 2015-05, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Department of Economics.
    3. Herrendorf, Berthold & Rogerson, Richard & Valentinyi, Ákos, 2014. "Growth and Structural Transformation," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 6, pages 855-941 Elsevier.
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    5. Jaime Alonso-Carrera & Giulia Felice & Xavier Raurich, 2018. "Inequality and Structural Change under Non-Linear Engels' Curve," UB Economics Working Papers 2018/374, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics.
    6. Alonso-Carrera, Jaime & Raurich, Xavier, 2018. "Labor mobility, structural change and economic growth," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 292-310.
    7. repec:eee:streco:v:45:y:2018:i:c:p:49-63 is not listed on IDEAS
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    9. Henze, Philipp, 2014. "Structural change and wage inequality: Evidence from German micro data," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 204, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    10. Alvarez-Cuadrado, Francisco & Long, Ngo Van & Poschke, Markus, 2018. "Capital-labor substitution, structural change and the labor income share," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 206-231.
    11. Alvarez-Cuadrado, Francisco & Long, Ngo & Poschke, Markus, 2017. "Capital-labor substitution, structural change and growth," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 12(3), September.
    12. Chaoran Chen, 2017. "Technology Adoption, Capital Deepening, and International Productivity Differences," Working Papers tecipa-584, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    13. Verma, Rubina, 2012. "Can total factor productivity explain value added growth in services?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 163-177.
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    15. Fabio Monteforte, 2015. "Structural Transformation, the Push-Pull Hypothesis and the Labour Market," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 15/654, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK, revised 01 Dec 2017.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Capital-labor substitution; balanced growth; structural change;

    JEL classification:

    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O41 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - One, Two, and Multisector Growth Models
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General

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