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Are Some Firms Better at IT? Differing Relationships between Productivity and IT Spending

  • Kevin M Stolarick
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    Although recent studies have found a positive relationship between spending on information technology and firm productivity, the magnitude of this relationship has not been as dramatic as one would expect given the anecdotal evidence. Data collected by the Bureau of the Census is analyzed to investigate the relationship between plant-level productivity and spending on IT. This relationship is investigated by separating the manufacturing plants in the sample along two dimensions, total factor productivity and IT spending. Analysis along these dimensions reveals that there are significant differences between the highest and lowest productivity plants. The highest productivity plants tend to spend less on IT while the lowest productivity plants tend to spend more on IT. Although there is support for the idea that lower productivity plants are spending more on IT to compensate for their productivity shortcomings, the results indicate that this is not the only difference. The robustness of this finding is strengthened by investigating changes in productivity and IT spending over time. High productivity plants with the lowest amounts of IT spending tend to remain high productivity plants with low IT spending while low productivity plants with high IT spending tend to remain low productivity plants with high IT spending. The results show that management skill, as measured by the overall productivity level of a firm, is an additional factor that must be taken into consideration when investigating the IT "productivity paradox."

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    File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/1999/CES-WP-99-13.pdf
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    Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 99-13.

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    Date of creation: Oct 1999
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    Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:99-13
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    1. Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin Hitt, 1996. "Paradox Lost? Firm-Level Evidence on the Returns to Information Systems Spending," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 42(4), pages 541-558, April.
    2. Griliches, Zvi, 1994. "Productivity, R&D, and the Data Constraint," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 1-23, March.
    3. Martin Neil Baily & Robert J. Gordon, 1988. "The Productivity Slowdown, Measurement Issues, and the Explosion of Computer Power," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(2), pages 347-432.
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