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The Cyclical Response of Advertising Refutes Counter-Cyclical Profit Margins in Favor of Product-Market Frictions

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  • Robert E. Hall

Abstract

According to the standard model, advertising is remarkably sensitive to profit margins. Firms advertise to stimulate demand for their products. They advertise high-margin products aggressively and low-margin ones hardly at all. In macroeconomics, variations in profit margins over the business cycle have a key role. A widening of margins can explain the rise in unemployment in recessions. A higher margin implies a lower real wage. A variety of models ranging from Keynesian to search-and-matching map a decline in wages to higher unemployment. But a rise in profit margins should expand advertising by a lot. Really a lot. Advertising should be highly countercyclical. Instead, it is somewhat procyclical. The ratio of advertising spending to private GDP falls when the economy contracts. The behavior of advertising refutes the hypothesis that profit margins rise. But it is true that the labor share of income falls. Hence there must be another factor that lowers the labor share without raising profit margins. The only influence that fits the facts is a rise in a product-market friction that has the same effect as an increase in sales taxes.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert E. Hall, 2012. "The Cyclical Response of Advertising Refutes Counter-Cyclical Profit Margins in Favor of Product-Market Frictions," NBER Working Papers 18370, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18370
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jan De Loecker & Frederic Warzynski, 2012. "Markups and Firm-Level Export Status," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2437-2471, October.
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    3. Nicholas Kaldor, 1950. "The Economic Aspects of Advertising," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(1), pages 1-27.
    4. Chevalier, Judith A & Scharfstein, David S, 1996. "Capital-Market Imperfections and Countercyclical Markups: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 703-725, September.
    5. Edmond, Chris & Veldkamp, Laura, 2009. "Income dispersion and counter-cyclical markups," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 791-804, September.
    6. Armstrong, Mark & Porter, Robert, 2007. "Preface to the Handbook of Industrial Organization, Volume 3," Handbook of Industrial Organization, Elsevier.
    7. Bils, Mark, 1987. "The Cyclical Behavior of Marginal Cost and Price," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 838-855, December.
    8. Christopher J. Nekarda & Valerie A. Ramey, 2013. "The Cyclical Behavior of the Price-Cost Markup," NBER Working Papers 19099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Bresnahan, Timothy F., 1989. "Empirical studies of industries with market power," Handbook of Industrial Organization,in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 17, pages 1011-1057 Elsevier.
    10. Robert E. Hall, 2009. "Reconciling Cyclical Movements in the Marginal Value of Time and the Marginal Product of Labor," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(2), pages 281-323, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Petrosky-Nadeau, Nicolas & Wasmer, Etienne & Zeng, Shutian, 2016. "Shopping time," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 52-60.
    2. Petrosky-Nadeau, Nicolas & Wasmer, Etienne, 2015. "Macroeconomic dynamics in a model of goods, labor, and credit market frictions," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 97-113.
    3. Thomas Brzustowski & Nicolas Petrovsky-Nadeau & Etienne Wasmer, 2015. "Disentangling goods, labor and credit market frictions in three European economies," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/798de2mkg49, Sciences Po.
    4. Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau & Etienne Wasmer, 2016. "The efficiency of surplus sharing," 2016 Meeting Papers 1318, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Loukas Karabarbounis, 2014. "The Labor Wedge: MRS vs. MPN," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(2), pages 206-223, April.
    6. repec:eee:labeco:v:50:y:2018:i:c:p:180-196 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Petrosky-Nadeau, Nicolas & Wasmer, Etienne, 2015. "Macroeconomic dynamics in a model of goods, labor, and credit market frictions," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 97-113.
    8. Petrosky-Nadeau, Nicolas & Wasmer, Etienne, 2015. "Macroeconomic dynamics in a model of goods, labor, and credit market frictions," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 97-113.
    9. Petrosky-Nadeau, Nicolas & Wasmer, Etienne & Zeng, Shutian, 2016. "Shopping time," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 52-60.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • E12 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Keynes; Keynesian; Post-Keynesian
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles

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