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Learning by Drilling: Inter-Firm Learning and Relationship Persistence in the Texas Oilpatch

  • Ryan Kellogg

This paper examines the importance of learning-by-doing that is specific not just to individual firms, but to pairs of firms working together in a contracting relationship. Using new, detailed data from the oil and gas industry, I find that the joint productivity of an oil production company and its drilling contractor is enhanced significantly as they accumulate experience working together. This learning is relationship-specific: drilling rigs generally cannot fully appropriate the productivity gains acquired through experience with one production company to their work for another. This result is robust to other ex ante match specificities. Relationship-specific learning is consequential because it implies that relationship stability is important to productivity. When two firms accumulate experience working together, relationship-specific intellectual capital is created that cannot be appropriated to pairings with other firms. If the relationship is broken, this capital is destroyed and productivity decreases, thereby giving firms an incentive to maintain long-term relationships. Accordingly, the data indicate that production companies prefer to work with drilling rigs which they have accumulated considerable experience rather than those with which they have worked relatively little. I demonstrate that this contracting pattern is difficult to explain with switching costs or ex ante match specificities alone.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15060.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15060.

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Date of creation: Jun 2009
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Publication status: published as Ryan Kellogg, 2011. "Learning by Drilling: Interfirm Learning and Relationship Persistence in the Texas Oilpatch," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1961-2004.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15060
Note: EEE IO PR
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  1. Jovanovic, Boyan & Nyarko, Yaw, 1996. "Learning by Doing and the Choice of Technology," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(6), pages 1299-1310, November.
  2. Hendricks, Kenneth & Porter, Robert H, 1988. "An Empirical Study of an Auction with Asymmetric Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 865-83, December.
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  5. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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  8. Wiggins, Steven N & Libecap, Gary D, 1985. "Oil Field Unitization: Contractual Failure in the Presence of Imperfect Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 368-85, June.
  9. A. M. Spence, 1981. "The Learning Curve and Competition," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(1), pages 49-70, Spring.
  10. Robert Gibbons & Michael Waldman, 2004. "Task-Specific Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 203-207, May.
  11. Irwin, Douglas A & Klenow, Peter J, 1994. "Learning-by-Doing Spillovers in the Semiconductor Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1200-1227, December.
  12. Nancy L Stokey, 1986. "Learning-by-Doing and the Introduction of New Goods," Discussion Papers 699, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science, revised May 1987.
  13. repec:fiu:wpaper:0301 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 2003. "Cluster-Sample Methods in Applied Econometrics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 133-138, May.
  15. C. Lanier Benkard, 2000. "Learning and Forgetting: The Dynamics of Aircraft Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 1034-1054, September.
  16. Robert S. Huckman & Gary P. Pisano, 2006. "The Firm Specificity of Individual Performance: Evidence from Cardiac Surgery," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(4), pages 473-488, April.
  17. Prendergast, Canice, 1993. "The Role of Promotion in Inducing Specific Human Capital Acquisition," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(2), pages 523-34, May.
  18. Rebecca Achee Thornton & Peter Thompson, 2001. "Learning from Experience and Learning from Others: An Exploration of Learning and Spillovers in Wartime Shipbuilding," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1350-1368, December.
  19. Kenneth S. Corts, 2004. "The Effect of Repeated Interaction on Contract Choice: Evidence from Offshore Drilling," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 230-260, April.
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