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Scope and scale economies in Federal Reserve payment processing

  • Robert M. Adams
  • Paul W. Bauer
  • Robin C. Sickles

In the past decade, the U.S. economy has witnessed a tremendous surge in the usage of electronic payment processing services and an increased importance of the firms that provide these services. The payments industry has also undergone changes in cost structure with the introduction of new technology. Unfortunately, data on the private provision of payment processing services are not available. However, the Federal Reserve provides similar services and collects data on its own provision of payments processing, offering an opportunity to gain insights into the cost structure of payments processing. In this paper, we estimate the scope and scale economies and the technical change in the Federal Reserve's provision of payments processing from 1990-2000. We find considerable scale economies and evidence of some scope economies for the provision of automated clearinghouse, fedwire, and book-entry services no matter whether we specify a separable quadratic or a translog cost function. In addition, we find that disembodied technical change also attributed to the overall reduction in costs through the 1990s.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in its series Working Paper with number 0213.

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Date of creation: 2002
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedcwp:0213
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  1. Evans, David S & Heckman, James J, 1984. "A Test for Subadditivity of the Cost Function with an Application to the Bell System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 615-23, September.
  2. David C. Wheelock & Paul W. Wilson, 1997. "New evidence on returns to scale and product mix among U.S. commercial banks," Working Papers 1997-003, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  3. Hancock, Diana & Humphrey, David B. & Wilcox, James A., 1999. "Cost reductions in electronic payments: The roles of consolidation, economies of scale, and technical change," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 23(2-4), pages 391-421, February.
  4. Kirstin E. Wells, 1996. "Are checks overused?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Fall, pages 2-12.
  5. Bauer, Paul W & Ferrier, Gary D, 1996. "Scale Economies, Cost Efficiencies, and Technological Change in Federal Reserve Payments Processing," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 28(4), pages 1004-39, November.
  6. Berger, Allen N. & Hanweck, Gerald A. & Humphrey, David B., 1987. "Competitive viability in banking : Scale, scope, and product mix economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 501-520, December.
  7. McAllister, Patrick H. & McManus, Douglas, 1993. "Resolving the scale efficiency puzzle in banking," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(2-3), pages 389-405, April.
  8. Heckman, James J. & Singer, Burton, 1985. "Erratum," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 137-138, January.
  9. Scott E. Knudson & Jack K. Walton II & Florence M. Young, 1994. "Business-to-business payments and the role of financial electronic data interchange," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Apr, pages 269-278.
  10. Paul W. Bauer & Diana Hancock, 1995. "Scale economies and technological change in Federal Reserve ACH payment processing," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Q III, pages 14-29.
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