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Why Are Plant Deaths Countercyclical: Reallocation Timing or Fragility?

  • Andrew Figura
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    Because plant deaths destroy specific capital with large local economic impacts and potentially important macroeconmic effects, understanding the causes of deaths and, in particular, why they are concentrated in cyclical downturns, is important. The reallocationtiming hypothesis posits that plants suffering adverse permanent demand/productivity shocks delay shutdowns until cyclical downturns when plant capacity is less valuable, while the fragility hypothesis posits that shutdowns occur in downturns because the option value of maintaining the plant through low profitability periods is too small. I show that the effect that a plant’s specific capital has on the timing of plant deaths differs across these two hypotheses and then use this insight to test the hypotheses’ relative importance. I find that fragility is the dominant cause of the countercyclical behavior of plant deaths. This suggests that the endogenous destruction of capital is likely an important amplification and propagation mechanism for cyclical shocks and that stabilization policies have the benefit of reduced capital destruction.

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    File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2006/CES-WP-06-24.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2006
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    Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 06-24.

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    Length: 43 pages
    Date of creation: Nov 2006
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:06-24
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