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Measuring the Returns to R&D: The Depreciation Problem

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  • Bronwyn H. Hall

Abstract

Measuring the private returns to R&D requires knowledge of its private depreciation or obsolescence rate, which is inherently variable and responds to competitive pressure. Nevertheless, most of the previous literature has used a constant depreciation rate to construct R&D capital stocks and measure the returns to R&D, a rate usually equal to 15 per cent. In this paper I review the implications of this assumption for the measurement of returns using two different methodologies: one based on the production function and another that uses firm market value to infer returns. Under the assumption that firms choose their R&D investment optimally, that is, marginal expected benefit equals marginal cost, I show that both estimates of returns can be inverted to derive an implied depreciation rate for R&D capital. I then test these ideas on a large unbalanced panel of U.S. manufacturing firms for the years 1974 to 2003. The two methods do not agree, in that the production function approach suggests depreciation rates near zero (or even appreciation) whereas the market value approach implies depreciation rates ranging from 20 to 40 per cent, depending on the period. The concluding section discusses the possible reasons for this funding.

Suggested Citation

  • Bronwyn H. Hall, 2007. "Measuring the Returns to R&D: The Depreciation Problem," NBER Working Papers 13473, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13473
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Cockburn, Iain & Griliches, Zvi, 1988. "Industry Effects and Appropriability Measures in the Stock Market's Valuation of R&D and Patents," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 419-423, May.
    2. Zvi Griliches & Jacques Mairesse, 1995. "Production Functions: The Search for Identification," NBER Working Papers 5067, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Ivar Ekeland & James J. Heckman & Lars Nesheim, 2004. "Identification and Estimation of Hedonic Models," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 60-109, February.
    4. Zvi Griliches, 1984. "Market Value, R&D, and Patents," NBER Chapters,in: R&D, Patents, and Productivity, pages 249-252 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Zvi Griliches, 1998. "Returns to Research and Development Expenditures in the Private Sector," NBER Chapters,in: R&D and Productivity: The Econometric Evidence, pages 49-81 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Chan, Su Han & Martin, John D. & Kensinger, John W., 1990. "Corporate research and development expenditures and share value," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 255-276, August.
    7. Zvi Griliches & Bronwyn H. Hall & Ariel Pakes, 1988. "R&D, Patents, and Market Value Revisited: Is There Evidence of A SecondTechnological Opportunity Related Factor?," NBER Working Papers 2624, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Zvi Griliches, 1958. "Research Costs and Social Returns: Hybrid Corn and Related Innovations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 419-419.
    9. Louis K. C. Chan, 2001. "The Stock Market Valuation of Research and Development Expenditures," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(6), pages 2431-2456, December.
    10. Brown, James N & Rosen, Harvey S, 1982. "On the Estimation of Structural Hedonic Price Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 765-768, May.
    11. repec:crs:wpaper:9730 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Bosworth, Derek & Rogers, Mark, 2001. "Market Value, R&D and Intellectual Property: An Empirical Analysis of Large Australian Firms," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 77(239), pages 323-337, December.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General

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