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Productivity growth in the 1990s: technology, utilization, or adjustment

  • Susanto Basu
  • John G. Fernald
  • Matthew D. Shapiro

Measured productivity growth increased substantially during the second half of the 1990s. This paper examines whether this increase owes to an increase in the rate of technological change or whether it can be explained by non-technological factors relating to factor utilization, factor accumulation, or returns to scale. It finds that the recent increase in productivity growth does appear to arise from an increase in technological change. Cyclical utilization raised measured productivity growth relative to technology growth in the first part of the expansion, but lowered it subsequently. Factor adjustment leads to a steady-state understatement of technology growth by measured productivity growth. The understatement was greater in the second half of the expansion than the first. Changes in the distribution of inputs across industries with different returns to scale lead to a modest understatement in the growth in technology. Although the increase technological change is most pronounced in durable manufacturing, technological change also increased outside of manufacturing.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-01-04.

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Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-01-04
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  1. Burnside, C & Eichenbaum, M & Rebelo, S, 1995. "Capital Utilization and Returns to Scale," RCER Working Papers 402, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  2. Susanto Basu & John Fernald & Miles Kimball, 2002. "Are Technology Improvements Contractionary?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1986, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. John G. Fernald & Susanto Basu, 1999. "Why is productivity procyclical? Why do we care?," International Finance Discussion Papers 638, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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  6. Valerie A. Ramey & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1999. "Costly Capital Reallocation and the Effects of Government Spending," NBER Working Papers 6283, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Basu, Susanto & Fernald, John G., 2002. "Aggregate productivity and aggregate technology," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(6), pages 963-991, June.
  11. Matthew D. Shapiro, 1985. "Capital Utilization and Capital Accumulation: Theory and Evidence," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 736, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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  19. Karl Whelan, 2000. "A guide to the use of chain aggregated NIPA data," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-35, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  20. Julio J. Rotemberg & Michael Woodford, 1993. "Dynamic General Equilibrium Models with Imperfectly Competitive Product Markets," NBER Working Papers 4502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Susanto Basu, 1995. "Procyclical Productivity: Increasing Returns or Cyclical Utilization?," NBER Working Papers 5336, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Martin N. Baily & Robert Lawrence, 2001. "Do We Have A New E-Conomy?," NBER Working Papers 8243, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  24. Kevin J. Stiroh, 2002. "Information Technology and the U.S. Productivity Revival: What Do the Industry Data Say?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1559-1576, December.
  25. William D. Nordhaus, 2000. "Productivity Growth and the New Economy," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1284, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  26. Michael T. Kiley, 1999. "Computers and growth with costs of adjustment: will the future look like the past?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-36, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  27. Matthew D. Shapiro, 1996. "Macroeconomic Implications of Variation in the Workweek of Capital," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(2), pages 79-134.
  28. Shapiro, Matthew D, 1993. "Cyclical Productivity and the Workweek of Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 229-33, May.
  29. Robert E. Hall, 2001. "Struggling to Understand the Stock Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 1-11, May.
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