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The Marginal Product of Capital

Whether or not the marginal product of capital (MPK) differs across countries is a question that keeps coming up in discussions of comparative economic development and patterns of capital flows. Using easily accessible macroeconomic data we find that MPKs are remarkably similar across countries. Hence, there is no prima facie support for the view that international credit frictions play a major role in preventing capital flows from rich to poor countries. Lower capital ratios in these countries are instead attributable to lower endowments of complementary factors and lower efficiency, as well as to lower prices of output goods relative to capital. We also show that properly accounting for the share of income accruing to reproducible capital is critical to reach these conclusions. One implication of our findings is that increased aid flows to developing countries will not significantly increase these countries' capital stocks and incomes. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 122 (2007)
Issue (Month): 2 (05)
Pages: 535-568

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:2:p:535-568
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