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The Productivity Advantage and Global Scope of U.S. Multinational Firms

  • Raymond Mataloni, Jr.
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    This paper examines whether the productivity of U.S. business establishments is related to the extent to which their parent firms are globally engaged--from being an exporter to being a fledgling multinational that has taken a few cautious forays into foreign markets to being a seasoned multinational with extensive foreign operations. Theory suggests that multinationals possess proprietary assets that confer a productivity advantage over their domestically-oriented rivals, and that this advantage is positively correlated with the global scope of a firm’s operations. That is, those firms with the greatest productivity advantage are able to absorb the costs and overcome the risks of operating in a wide range of foreign countries, from those where it is relatively riskfree and economical to operate, to those where it is risky, difficult, and costly. This connection between the multinational’s widening of its geographic scope of operations and its productivity can be self-reinforcing. Once a multinational has successfully operated in a risky environment, it may benefit from learning effects that can lower the cost and risk of further enlargement of geographic scope. The positive correlation between a firm’s global engagement and its level of productivity has already been demonstrated. This paper extends that research by testing whether the correlation holds up when productivity is measured at the level of the individual establishment, rather than at the level of the consolidated business enterprise. It also examines whether the correlation between global engagement and productivity exists in non-manufacturing industries. Finally, it examines whether linkages between the multinational’s domestic and foreign operations, in the form of imports of goods by the parent company from its foreign affiliates, enhance the productivity of the multinational’s domestic business establishments. The findings confirm the positive correlation between global scope and productivity and demonstrate that it holds for both manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries. The effect of imports of goods from foreign affiliates on the productivity of the establishments of their parent firm depend on the geographic location of the affiliates: Imports from affiliates in high-income countries tend to be associated with high productivity whereas those from affiliates in low-income countries tend to be associated with low productivity. The study was made possible by combining BEA enterprise-level data on the U.S. operations of U.S. multinational firms with data on all U.S. business establishments collected by the Census Bureau in the U.S. economic census covering 2002.

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    File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2011/CES-WP-11-23.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2011
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 11-23.

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    Length: 29 pages
    Date of creation: Aug 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:11-23
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    1. Bruce Kogut & Udo Zander, 1993. "Knowledge of the Firm and the Evolutionary Theory of the Multinational Corporation," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 24(4), pages 625-645, December.
    2. Sang V Nguyen & Arnold P Reznek, 1990. "Returns to Scale in Small and Large U.S. Manufacturing Establishments," Working Papers 90-11, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    3. J. Bradford Jensen & Robert H. McGuckin & Kevin J. Stiroh, 2001. "The Impact Of Vintage And Survival On Productivity: Evidence From Cohorts Of U.S. Manufacturing Plants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(2), pages 323-332, May.
    4. Markusen, James R., 1984. "Multinationals, multi-plant economies, and the gains from trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 205-226, May.
    5. Ron S Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2002. "The Longitudinal Business Database," Working Papers 02-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    6. Griffith, Rachel, 1999. "Using the ARD Establishment Level Data to Look at Foreign Ownership and Productivity in the United Kingdom," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(456), pages F416-42, June.
    7. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
    8. Douglas W Dwyer, 1997. "Productivity Races II: The Issue of Capital Measurement," Working Papers 97-3, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    9. Maria Borga & Robert E. Lipsey, 2004. "Factor Prices and Factor Substitution in U.S. Firms' Manufacturing Affiliates Abroad," NBER Working Papers 10442, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Danielle Galliano & Nicolas Soulié, 2012. "Organizational and Spatial Determinants of the Multi-unit Firm: Evidence from French Industry," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(7), pages 907-926, October.
    11. Chiara Criscuolo & Ralf Martin, 2004. "Multinationals and U.S. Productivity Leadership: Evidence from Great Britain," OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers 2004/5, OECD Publishing.
    12. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen, 1997. "Exceptional Exporter Performance: Cause, Effect, or Both?," NBER Working Papers 6272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Helpman, Elhanan, 1984. "A Simple Theory of International Trade with Multinational Corporations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 451-71, June.
    14. Thomas Brush & Aneel Karnani, 1996. "Impact of Plant Size and Focus on Productivity: An Empirical Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 42(7), pages 1065-1081, July.
    15. Edward L. Glaeser & Joshua D. Gottlieb, 2009. "The Wealth of Cities: Agglomeration Economies and Spatial Equilibrium in the United States," NBER Working Papers 14806, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Jensen, J Bradford & McGuckin, Robert H, 1997. "Firm Performance and Evolution: Empirical Regularities in the US Microdata," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 25-47.
    17. Danielle GALLIANO (LEREPS–GRES & INRA–ESR) & Olivier SOULIE (LEREPS-GRES & INRA–ESR), 2007. "Organisational and spatial determinants of the multi-unit firm: Evidence from the French industry," Cahiers du GRES (2002-2009) 2007-17, Groupement de Recherches Economiques et Sociales.
    18. Yeaple, Stephen Ross, 2009. "Firm heterogeneity and the structure of U.S. multinational activity," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(2), pages 206-215, July.
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