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Outsourcing when Investments are Specific and Complementary

  • Alla Lileeva
  • Johannes Van Biesebroeck

Using the universe of large Canadian manufacturing firms in 1988 and 1996, we investigate to what extent outsourcing decision can be explained by a simple property rights model. The unique availability of disaggregate information on outputs as well as inputs permits the construction of a very detailed measure of vertical integration. We also construct five different measures of technological intensity to proxy for investments that are likely to be specific to a buyer-seller relationship. A theoretical model that allows for varying degrees of investment specificity and for complementarities---an externality between buyer and supplier investments---guides the analysis. Our main findings are that (i) greater specificity makes outsourcing less likely; (ii) complementarities between the investments of the buyer and the seller are also associated with less outsourcing; (iii) property rights predictions on the link between investment intensities and optimal ownership are only supported for transactions with low complementarities. High specificity and a low risk of appropriation strengthen the predictions in the model and in the data.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14477.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14477.

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Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Publication status: published as Alla Lileeva & Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2013. "Outsourcing When Investments Are Specific And Interrelated," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 871-896, 08.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14477
Note: IO PR
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  1. Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 2005. "Ownership and Control in Outsourcing to China: Estimating the Property-Rights Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 729-761, May.
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