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The U-shaped relationship between vertical integration and competition: theory and evidence


  • Philippe Aghion

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Harvard University)

  • Rachel Griffith

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and IFS and Manchester)

  • Peter Howitt

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Brown University)


This paper considers how competition can affect aggregate innovative activity through its effects on firms' decision whether or not to vertically integrate. A moderate increase in competition enhances innovation incentives, too much competition discourages innovative effort. These effects generates an inverted-U relationship between competition and innovation and between competition and the incentive to vertically integrate. Preliminary evidence finds that there is a non-linear relationship between competition and the propensity of firms to vertically integrate. These results seem to be more consistent with the Property Right Theory (PRT) of vertical integration than with the Transaction Cost Economics (TCE) approach.

Suggested Citation

  • Philippe Aghion & Rachel Griffith & Peter Howitt, 2006. "The U-shaped relationship between vertical integration and competition: theory and evidence," IFS Working Papers W06/12, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:06/12

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Philippe Aghion & Nick Bloom & Richard Blundell & Rachel Griffith & Peter Howitt, 2005. "Competition and Innovation: an Inverted-U Relationship," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 701-728.
    2. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-1158, December.
    3. Daron Acemoglu & Philippe Aghion & Rachel Griffith & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2010. "Vertical Integration and Technology: Theory and Evidence," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(5), pages 989-1033, September.
    4. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 691-719, August.
    5. Robert C. Feenstra, 1998. "Integration of Trade and Disintegration of Production in the Global Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 31-50, Fall.
    6. Joskow, Paul L, 1987. "Contract Duration and Relationship-Specific Investments: Empirical Evidence from Coal Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 168-185, March.
    7. Klein, Benjamin, 1988. "Vertical Integration as Organizational Ownership: The Fisher Body-General Motors Relationship Revisited," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 199-213, Spring.
    8. Caves, Richard E. & Bradburd, Ralph M., 1988. "The empirical determinants of vertical integration," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 265-279, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Hutzschenreuter & Florian Gröne, 2009. "Changing Vertical Integration Strategies under Pressure from Foreign Competition: The Case of US and German Multinationals," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(2), pages 269-307, March.
    2. Kilinc, U., 2010. "Measuring competition in a frictional economy," Serie Research Memoranda 0012, VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics.
    3. Luigi Pascali, 2009. "Contract Incompleteness, Globalization and Vertical Structure: an Empirical Analysis," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 727, Boston College Department of Economics.
    4. Macchiavello, Rocco, 2006. "Contractual Institutions, Financial Development and Vertical Integration: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 5903, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Kuo-Feng Huang & Chwo-Ming Yu, 2011. "The effect of competitive and non-competitive R&D collaboration on firm innovation," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 36(4), pages 383-403, August.
    6. Alena Zemplinerova, 2010. "Competition policy and economic analysis: What can we learn from firm and industry data?," CERGE-EI Books, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague, edition 1, number b07, November.
    7. Kilinc, U., 2010. "Price-cost markups and productivity dynamics of entrant plants," Serie Research Memoranda 0011, VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics.

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