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Nature Versus Nurture in the Origins of Highly Productive Businesses: An Exploratory Analysis of U.S. Manufacturing Establishments

  • J. David Brown
  • John Earle

This paper investigates the origins of productivity leaders, those that operate close to and help push out the production frontier. Do such businesses emerge as top performers from the very beginning of their lives, for example as the consequence of an outstanding founding idea, technology, or location? Or, at the other extreme, do they appear initially as completely average (or even underperformers) that exhibit gradual improvement as they learn and develop with age? To answer this question we draw upon five decades of U.S. Census of Manufacturing (CM) establishment-level data, tracing the productivity leaders of the most recent CM (2007) back over their observed life spans. We also examine possible industry-level correlates of variation in the extent of nature versus nurture that are suggested by theories of industry dynamics and economic growth.

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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2011/CES-WP-11-26.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 11-26.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:11-26
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  1. Aghion, P. & Howitt, P., 1989. "A Model Of Growth Through Creative Destruction," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 8904, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  2. Ron S Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2002. "The Longitudinal Business Database," Working Papers 02-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  3. Marcela Eslava & John Haltiwanger & Adriana Kugler & Maurice Kugler, 2004. "The Effects of Structural Reforms on Productivity and Profitability Enhancing Reallocation: Evidence from Colombia," Working Papers 134, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  4. Chad Syverson, 2011. "What Determines Productivity?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(2), pages 326-65, June.
  5. Ericson, Richard & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Markov-Perfect Industry Dynamics: A Framework for Empirical Work," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(1), pages 53-82, January.
  6. Aghion, Philippe & Howitt, Peter, 1992. "A Model of Growth Through Creative Destruction," Scholarly Articles 12490578, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. 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.
  8. Bartelsman, Eric J & Haskel, Jonathan & Martin, Ralf, 2008. "Distance to Which Frontier? Evidence on Productivity Convergence from International Firm-level Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 7032, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Zoltan Acs & Pamela Mueller, 2006. "Employment effects of business dynamics: Mice, Gazelles and Elephants," Papers on Entrepreneurship, Growth and Public Policy 2006-23, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Entrepreneurship, Growth and Public Policy Group.
  10. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Selection and the Evolution of Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 649-70, May.
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