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Capital Allocation and Productivity in South Europe

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  • Gita Gopinath
  • Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan
  • Loukas Karabarbounis
  • Carolina Villegas-Sanchez

Abstract

Starting in the early 1990s, countries in southern Europe experienced low productivity growth alongside declining real interest rates. We use data for manufacturing firms in Spain between 1999 and 2012 to document a significant increase in the dispersion of the return to capital across firms, a stable dispersion of the return to labor, and a significant increase in productivity losses from capital misallocation over time. We develop a model with size-dependent financial frictions that is consistent with important aspects of firms' behavior in production and balance sheet data. We illustrate how the decline in the real interest rate, often attributed to the euro convergence process, leads to a significant decline in sectoral total factor productivity as capital inflows are misallocated toward firms that have higher net worth but are not necessarily more productive. We show that similar trends in dispersion and productivity losses are observed in Italy and Portugal but not in Germany, France, and Norway.

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  • Gita Gopinath & Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & Loukas Karabarbounis & Carolina Villegas-Sanchez, 2015. "Capital Allocation and Productivity in South Europe," NBER Working Papers 21453, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21453
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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
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

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