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What Do Micro Data Reveal About the User Cost Elasticity?: New Evidence on the Responsiveness of Business Capital Formation

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  • Robert S. Chirinko
  • Steven M. Fazzari
  • Andrew P. Meyer

Abstract

The price sensitivity of business investment spending is a central element in economic analysis. A substantial response of capital spending to its user cost, which combines interest, tax, and depreciation rates with relative prices, is critical to evaluating the effectiveness of monetary policy, deficit reduction, and tax reform. In spite of this central role, however, the supporting evidence for a substantial user cost elasticity (UCE) is modest. Several important concerns suggest a downward bias in elasticities estimated from the aggregate data typically employed in UCE research. These biases may arise from firm heterogeneity, measurement error, capital market frictions, and simultaneity. While such biases are theoretically plausible, their empirical importance remains to be substantiated. With a particularly rich data set, containing over 26,000 observations, this paper explores what can be learned about the UCE from micro data. Investment and firm-level control variables are taken from an extensive panel of Compustrat forms. To construct the user cost, we tap a new data source that provides variation across firms as well as across time. A number of the econometric biases mentioned above have a substantial impact on the estimated UCE. After correcting for the biases, we obtain a precisely estimated but small value for the UCE of about -0.25. The effects of capital gain tax cuts and the "flat-tax" proposal on investment are evaluated with this estimated UCE.
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Suggested Citation

  • Robert S. Chirinko & Steven M. Fazzari & Andrew P. Meyer, 1996. "What Do Micro Data Reveal About the User Cost Elasticity?: New Evidence on the Responsiveness of Business Capital Formation," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_175, Levy Economics Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_175
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Arellano, Manuel & Bover, Olympia, 1995. "Another look at the instrumental variable estimation of error-components models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 29-51, July.
    2. Robert S. Chirinko, 1992. "Business Fixed Investment Spending: A Critical survey of Modeling Strategies, Empirical Results, and Policy Implications," Working Papers 9213, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
    3. Steven M. Fazzari & Benjamin Herzon, 1995. "Capital Gains Tax Cuts, Investment, and Growth," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_147, Levy Economics Institute.
    4. Alan S. Blinder & Louis J. Maccini, 1991. "Taking Stock: A Critical Assessment of Recent Research on Inventories," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 73-96, Winter.
    5. Griliches, Zvi & Hausman, Jerry A., 1986. "Errors in variables in panel data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 93-118, February.
    6. Fazzari, Steven M & Hubbard, R Glenn & Petersen, Bruce C, 1988. "Investment, Financing Decisions, and Tax Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 200-205, May.
    7. Steven M. Fazzari & R. Glenn Hubbard & Bruce C. Petersen, 1988. "Financing Constraints and Corporate Investment," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(1), pages 141-206.
    8. Urga, G., 1992. "The Econometrics of Panel Data: A Selective Introduction," Economics Series Working Papers 99151, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    9. Chirinko, Robert S & Schaller, Huntley, 1995. "Why Does Liquidity Matter in Investment Equations?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(2), pages 527-548, May.
    10. Oliner, Stephen & Rudebusch, Glenn & Sichel, Daniel, 1995. "New and Old Models of Business Investment: A Comparison of Forecasting Performance," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(3), pages 806-826, August.
    11. Chirinko, Robert S, 1988. "Business Tax Policy, the Lucas Critique, and Lessons from the 1980's," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 206-210, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Austan Goolsbee, 2000. "The Importance of Measurement Error in the Cost of Capital," NBER Working Papers 7558, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Albrizio, Silvia & Lamp, Stefan, 2014. "The investment effect of fiscal consolidation," Economics Working Papers ECO2014/10, European University Institute.

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