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Macro and Micro Dynamics of Productivity: From Devilish Details to Insights

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  • Lucia S. Foster
  • Cheryl A. Grim
  • John Haltiwanger
  • Zoltan Wolf

Abstract

Researchers use a variety of methods to estimate total factor productivity (TFP) at the firm level and, while these may seem broadly equivalent, how the resulting measures relate to the TFP concept in theoretical models depends on the assumptions about the environment in which firms operate. Interpreting these measures and drawing insights based upon their characteristics thus must take into account these conceptual differences. Absent data on prices and quantities, most methods yield ``revenue productivity" measures. We focus on two broad classes of revenue productivity measures in our examination of the relationship between measured and conceptual TFP (TFPQ). The first measure has been increasingly used as a measure of idiosyncratic distortions and to assess the degree of misallocation. The second measure is, under standard assumptions, a function of fundamentals (e.g., TFPQ). Using plant-level U.S. manufacturing data, we find these alternative measures are (i) highly correlated; (ii) exhibit similar dispersion; and (iii) have similar relationships with growth and survival. These findings raise questions about interpreting the first measure as a measure of idiosyncratic distortions. We also explore the sensitivity of estimates of the contribution of reallocation to aggregate productivity growth to these alternative approaches. We use recently developed structural decompositions of aggregate productivity growth that depend critically on estimates of output versus revenue elasticities. We find alternative approaches all yield a significant contribution of reallocation to productivity growth (although the quantitative contribution varies across approaches).

Suggested Citation

  • Lucia S. Foster & Cheryl A. Grim & John Haltiwanger & Zoltan Wolf, 2017. "Macro and Micro Dynamics of Productivity: From Devilish Details to Insights," NBER Working Papers 23666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23666
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    Cited by:

    1. Eric J. Bartelsman & Zoltan Wolf, 2017. "Measuring Productivity Dispersion," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 17-033/VI, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. Francesco Manaresi & Nicola Pierri, 2018. "Credit supply and productivity growth," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 1168, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    3. S. Calligaris & M. Del Gatto & F. Hassan & G. I.P. Ottaviano & F. Schivardi, 2017. "The Productivity Puzzle and Misallocation: an Italian Perspective," Working Paper CRENoS 201710, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
    4. repec:nbr:nberch:13889 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Lucia Foster & Cheryl Grim & John Haltiwanger & Zoltan Wolf, 2018. "Innovation, Productivity Dispersion, and Productivity Growth," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring and Accounting for Innovation in the 21st Century National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Francesco Manaresi & Nicola Pierri, 2018. "Credit supply and productivity growth," BIS Working Papers 711, Bank for International Settlements.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity

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