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The Marginal Product of Capital: A Persistent International Puzzle

  • Robert S. Chirinko
  • Debdulal Mallick

Large and sustained differences in marginal products of capital (MPKs) across countries are sharply at odds with the core implications of the neoclassical framework. Lucas (1990) and many subsequent studies have examined reasons for this MPK differential. In a recent contribution, Caselli and Feyrer (2007) take the ground out from under this debate by reconsidering measurement issues and concluding that the MPK differential vanishes. Despite Caselli and Feyrer’s important advances in measurement, the international MPK puzzle persists. We show that the measurement of MPKs in their framework is substantially affected by adjustment costs in the accumulation of capital. With the proper technology and a plausible parameterization of adjustment costs, the MPK in poor countries is much higher than the MPK in rich countries. Why capital flows do not eliminate the MPK differential remains a persistent international puzzle. We examine the quantitative importance of financial frictions, relative prices, and adjustment costs in accounting for the MPK differential and document that adjustment costs provide the leading explanation.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2399.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2399
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  1. Djankov, Simeon & La Porta, Rafael & López-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei, 2001. "The Regulation of Entry," CEPR Discussion Papers 2953, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  3. Abel, Andrew B. & Eberly, Janice C., 1999. "The effects of irreversibility and uncertainty on capital accumulation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 339-377, December.
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  11. Banerjee, Abhijit V. & Duflo, Esther, 2005. "Growth Theory through the Lens of Development Economics," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 473-552 Elsevier.
  12. Russell W. Cooper & John C. Haltiwanger, 2006. "On the Nature of Capital Adjustment Costs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(3), pages 611-633.
  13. Woodford, Michael, 2005. "Firm-Specific Capital and the New Keynesian Phillips Curve," MPRA Paper 825, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  14. Robert S. Chirinko & Huntley Schaller, 2008. "The Irreversibility Premium," CESifo Working Paper Series 2265, CESifo Group Munich.
  15. Barnett, Steven A. & Sakellaris, Plutarchos, 1998. "Nonlinear response of firm investment to Q:: Testing a model of convex and non-convex adjustment costs1," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 261-288, July.
  16. Ben S. Bernanke & Refet S. Gürkaynak, 2002. "Is Growth Exogenous? Taking Mankiw, Romer, and Weil Seriously," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2001, Volume 16, pages 11-72 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Pfann, Gerard Antonie, 1996. "Adjustment Costs in Factor Demand," CEPR Discussion Papers 1371, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. Robert E. Lucas & Jr., 1967. "Adjustment Costs and the Theory of Supply," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 321.
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