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Death to the Cobb-Douglas production function

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  • Sebastian Gechert
  • Thomas Havranek
  • Zuzana Irsova
  • Dominika Kolcunova

Abstract

We show that the large elasticity of substitution between capital and labor estimated in the literature on average, 0.9, can be explained by three factors: publication bias, use of aggregated data, and omission of the first-order condition for capital. The mean elasticity conditional on the absence of publication bias, disaggregated data, and inclusion of information from the first-order condition for capital is 0.3. To obtain this result, we collect 3,186 estimates of the elasticity reported in 121 studies, codify 71 variables that reflect the context in which researchers produce their estimates, and address model uncertainty by Bayesian and frequentist model averaging. We employ nonlinear techniques to correct for publication bias, which is responsible for at least half of the overall reduction in the mean elasticity from 0.9 to 0.3. The weight of evidence accumulated in the empirical literature emphatically rejects the Cobb-Douglas specification.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Gechert & Thomas Havranek & Zuzana Irsova & Dominika Kolcunova, 2019. "Death to the Cobb-Douglas production function," IMK Working Paper 201-2019, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:imk:wpaper:201-2019
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    3. Jan Behringer, 2019. "Factor shares and the rise in corporate net lending," IMK Working Paper 202-2019, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    4. Klona, Maria, 2021. "The Days After COVID-19: A Meta-Analysis on the Impact of Epidemics and Pandemics on Long-Term Macro-Economic Performance," American Business Review, Pompea College of Business, University of New Haven, vol. 24(1), pages 188-224, May.
    5. Jan Behringer, 2019. "Factor shares and the rise in corporate net lending," IMK Working Paper 202-2019, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    6. Tyler Atkinson & Michael Plante & Alexander Richter & Nathaniel Throckmorton, . "Complementarity and Macroeconomic Uncertainty," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. Tomáš Havránek & T. D. Stanley & Hristos Doucouliagos & Pedro Bom & Jerome Geyer‐Klingeberg & Ichiro Iwasaki & W. Robert Reed & Katja Rost & R. C. M. van Aert, 2020. "Reporting Guidelines For Meta‐Analysis In Economics," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(3), pages 469-475, July.
    8. Stefano Di Bucchianico, 2021. "Negative Interest Rate Policy to Fight Secular Stagnation: Unfeasible, Ineffective, Irrelevant, or Inadequate?," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(4), pages 687-710, October.
    9. Dominika Ehrenbergerova & Josef Bajzik, 2020. "The Effect of Monetary Policy on House Prices - How Strong is the Transmission?," Working Papers 2020/14, Czech National Bank.
    10. Bom, Pedro R.D. & Erauskin, Iñaki, 2021. "Productive government investment and the labor share," MPRA Paper 108381, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Elasticity of substitution; capital; labor; publication bias; model uncertainty;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology

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