Are We Undercounting Reallocation's Contribution to Growth?
Reallocation growth occurs when an input moves from a lower marginal product to a higher marginal product activity. Three recent studies use two distinct methodologies to examine the sources of the strong surge in aggregate productivity growth (APG) in India’s manufacturing sector since 1990 following significant economic reforms. They all conclude that APG was primarily driven by within-plant increases in technical efficiency and not between-plant reallocation of inputs. Given the nature of the reforms, where many barriers to input reallocation were removed, this finding has surprised researchers and been dubbed “India’s Mysterious Manufacturing Miracle.” In this paper we show that these findings may be an artifact of the way the studies estimate reallocation. One approach counts all reallocation growth arising from the movement of intermediate inputs as technical efficiency growth. The second approach introduces measurement error into estimated reallocation by using plant-level average products - total factor productivity residuals - as a proxy for marginal products, which could be problematic as economic theory suggests that average products and marginal products are unrelated in equilibrium. Using microdata on manufacturing from 4 countries — the U.S., Chile, Colombia, and Slovenia — we show that both approaches significantly understate the true role of reallocation in economic growth. In the U.S. almost 50% of reallocation growth is due to movements of intermediate inputs, meaning if India is similar to the U.S. then reallocation’s share of total Indian manufacturing APG since 1990 increases from the previous estimate of one-third to almost two-thirds.
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