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Toward an Understanding of Learning by Doing: Evidence from an Automobile Assembly Plant

  • Steven D. Levitt
  • John A. List
  • Chad Syverson

We investigate learning by doing using detailed data from a major auto producer’s assembly plant. We focus on the acquisition, aggregation, transmission, and embodiment of the knowledge stock built through learning. We find that most knowledge was not retained by plant workers despite their importance as a learning conduit. This is consistent with the plant’s systems for productivity measurement and improvement. We further explore how learning at the hundreds of processes along the production line undergirds plantwide productivity. Our results shed light on how productivity gains accrue at the plant level and how firms apply managerial inputs to expand production.

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File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/10.1086/671137
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File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/671137
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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 121 (2013)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 643 - 681

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/671137
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JPE/

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  1. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & C.J. Krizan, 1998. "Aggregate Productivity Growth: Lessons from Microeconomic Evidence," NBER Working Papers 6803, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Peter Thompson, 2003. "How Much Did The Liberty Shipbuilders Forget?," Working Papers 0301, Florida International University, Department of Economics.
  11. Peter Thompson, 1997. "How Much Did the Liberty Shipbuilders Learn? New Evidence for an Old Case Study," Development and Comp Systems 9712001, EconWPA.
  12. C. Lanier Benkard, 2000. "Learning and Forgetting: The Dynamics of Aircraft Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 1034-1054, September.
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  15. Argote, L. & Epple, D., 1990. "Learning Curves In Manufacturing," GSIA Working Papers 89-90-02, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
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