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Capital Adjustment Patterns in Manufacturing Plants


  • Mark Doms
  • Timothy Dunne


A common result from altering several fundamental assumptions of the neoclassical investment model with convex adjustment costs is that investment may occur in lumpy episodes. This paper takes a step back and asks "How lumpy is the investment?" We answer this question by documenting the distributions of investment and capital adjustment for a sample of over 33,000 manufacturing plants drawn from over 400 four-digit industries. We find that many plants do undergo large investment episodes, however, there is tremendous variation across plants in their capital accumulation patterns. This paper explores how the variation in capital accumulation patterns vary by observable plant and firm characteristics, and how large investment episodes at the plant level transmit into fluctuations in aggregate investment.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Doms & Timothy Dunne, 1994. "Capital Adjustment Patterns in Manufacturing Plants," Working Papers 94-11, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:94-11

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rust, John, 1987. "Optimal Replacement of GMC Bus Engines: An Empirical Model of Harold Zurcher," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(5), pages 999-1033, September.
    2. Cooper, Russell & Haltiwanger, John, 1993. "The Aggregate Implications of Machine Replacement: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 360-382, June.
    3. Jonas D. M. Fisher & Jeffrey R. Campbell, 2000. "Aggregate Employment Fluctuations with Microeconomic Asymmetries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1323-1345, December.
    4. Bahk, Byong-Hong & Gort, Michael, 1993. "Decomposing Learning by Doing in New Plants," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(4), pages 561-583, August.
    5. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M. R. A. Engel, 1993. "Microeconomic Adjustment Hazards and Aggregate Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 359-383.
    6. Caballero, Ricardo J., 1999. "Aggregate investment," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 813-862 Elsevier.
    7. Abel, Andrew B & Eberly, Janice C, 1994. "A Unified Model of Investment under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1369-1384, December.
    8. Jason G. Cummins & Kevin A. Hassett & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1994. "A Reconsideration of Investment Behavior Using Tax Reforms as Natural Experiments," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 1-74.
    9. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1992. "Gross Job Creation, Gross Job Destruction, and Employment Reallocation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 819-863.
    10. Abel, Andrew B & Blanchard, Olivier J, 1986. "The Present Value of Profits and Cyclical Movements in Investment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(2), pages 249-273, March.
    11. John Haltiwanger & Russell Cooper & Laura Power, 1999. "Machine Replacement and the Business Cycle: Lumps and Bumps," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 921-946, September.
    12. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M. R. A. Engel & John C. Haltiwanger, 1995. "Plant-Level Adjustment and Aggregate Investment Dynamics," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(2), pages 1-54.
    13. Avinash Dixit, 1992. "Investment and Hysteresis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 107-132, Winter.
    14. Caballero, Ricardo J & Engel, Eduardo M R A & Haltiwanger, John, 1997. "Aggregate Employment Dynamics: Building from Microeconomic Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 115-137, March.
    15. Guiseppe Bertola & Ricardo J. Caballero, 1994. "Irreversibility and Aggregate Investment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(2), pages 223-246.
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    More about this item


    Investment; Capital; Spikes;

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • L6 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity


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