Why are semiconductor prices falling so fast? Industry estimates and implications for productivity measurement
By any measure, price deflators for semiconductors fell at a staggering pace over much of the last decade. These rapid declines are typically attributed to technological innovations that lower constant-quality manufacturing costs. But, given Intel's dominance in the microprocessor market, those price declines may also reflect changes in Intel's profit margins. Disaggregate data on Intel's operations are used to explore these issues. There are three basic findings. First, the industry data show that Intel's markups from its microprocessor segment shrank substantially from 1993-99. Second, about 3-1/2 percentage points of the average 24 percent price decline in a price index for Intel's chips can be attributed to declines in these profit margins over this period. And, finally, the data suggest that virtually all of the remaining price declines can be attributed to quality increases associated with product innovation.
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