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Cross-country Variation in Factor Shares and its Implications for Development Accounting

  • Brad Sturgill

The stability of factor shares has long been considered one of the “stylized facts” of macroeconomics. However, the relationship between cross-country factor shares and economic development is dependent on how factor shares are measured. Most factor share studies acknowledge only two factors of production: total capital and total labor. The failure to acknowledge more than two factors yields misleading results. Recent theoretical work predicts a systematic relationship between the stage of economic development and non-reproducible and reproducible factor shares. I disentangle physical capital’s share from natural capital’s share, and I disentangle human capital’s share from unskilled labor’s share. The results reveal that nonreproducible factor shares decrease with the stage of economic development, and reproducible factor shares increase with the stage of economic development. Studies relying on the macroeconomic paradigm of constant factor shares should be revisited. Development accounting nearly always assumes the constancy of factor shares. I perform the development accounting exercise but allow factor shares to vary and distinguish between reproducible and nonreproducible factors. My approach yields results that stand in stark contrast to those previously attained. The general consensus is that at least half of the cross-country variation in output per worker is attributable to cross-country variation in the TFP residual. With my approach, the majority of variation in output per worker accrues to factor shares, specifically physical capital’s share and natural capital’s share. TFP’s explanatory power decreases by more than 30 percentage points. This evidence does not, however, diminish the role of technical change. Rather, the evidence indicates the importance of acknowledging a new type of technical change, one that impacts factor shares. Key Words: Factor Shares, TFP residual

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Appalachian State University in its series Working Papers with number 09-07.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:apl:wpaper:09-07
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