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Factor Incomes in Global Value Chains: The Role of Intangibles

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  • Wen Chen
  • Bart Los
  • Marcel P. Timmer

Abstract

Recent studies document a decline in the share of labour and a simultaneous increase in the share of residual (‘factorless’) income in national GDP. We argue the need for study of factor incomes in cross-border production to complement country studies. We define a GVC production function that tracks the value added in each stage of production in any country-industry. We define a new residual as the difference between the value of the final good and the payments to all tangibles (capital and labour) in any stage. We focus on GVCs of manufactured goods and find the residual to be large. We interpret it as income for intangibles that are (mostly) not covered in current national accounts statistics. We document decreasing labour and increasing capital income shares over the period 2000-14. This is mainly due to increasing income for intangible assets, in particular in GVCs of durable goods. We provide evidence that suggests that the 2000s should be seen as an exceptional period in the global economy during which multinational firms benefitted from reduced labour costs through offshoring, while capitalising on existing firm-specific intangibles, such as brand names, at little marginal cost.

Suggested Citation

  • Wen Chen & Bart Los & Marcel P. Timmer, 2018. "Factor Incomes in Global Value Chains: The Role of Intangibles," NBER Working Papers 25242, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25242
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Carol Corrado & Charles Hulten & Daniel Sichel, 2009. "Intangible Capital And U.S. Economic Growth," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(3), pages 661-685, September.
    2. Mai Chi Dao & Mitali Das & Zsoka Koczan & Weicheng Lian, 2017. "Why Is Labor Receiving a Smaller Share of Global Income? Theory and Empirical Evidence," IMF Working Papers 17/169, International Monetary Fund.
    3. John Romalis, 2004. "Factor Proportions and the Structure of Commodity Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 67-97, March.
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    5. Bridgman, Benjamin, 2018. "Is Labor'S Loss Capital'S Gain? Gross Versus Net Labor Shares," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(08), pages 2070-2087, December.
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    7. Loukas Karabarbounis & Brent Neiman, 2019. "Accounting for Factorless Income," NBER Macroeconomics Annual, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 167-228.
    8. Peters, Ryan H. & Taylor, Lucian A., 2017. "Intangible capital and the investment-q relation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 123(2), pages 251-272.
    9. Koh, Dongya; Santaeulàlia-Llopis, Raül; Zheng, Yu, 2015. "Labor share decline and intellectual property products capital," Economics Working Papers ECO2015/05, European University Institute.
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    14. Thomas S. Neubig & Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, 2017. "A missing link in the analysis of global value chains: cross-border flows of intangible assets, taxation and related measurement implications," WIPO Economic Research Working Papers 37, World Intellectual Property Organization - Economics and Statistics Division.
    15. Prescott, Edward C & Visscher, Michael, 1980. "Organization Capital," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(3), pages 446-461, June.
    16. Marcel P. Timmer & Abdul Azeez Erumban & Bart Los & Robert Stehrer & Gaaitzen J. de Vries, 2014. "Slicing Up Global Value Chains," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(2), pages 99-118, Spring.
    17. Timmer, Marcel P. & Los, Bart & Stehrer, Robert & de Vries, Gaaitzen J., 2016. "An Anatomy of the Global Trade Slowdown based on the WIOD 2016 Release," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-162, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tiago Domingues, 2018. "Global Value Chains and Vertical Specialization: The case of Portuguese Textiles and Shoes exports," GEE Papers 00117, Gabinete de Estratégia e Estudos, Ministério da Economia, revised Jan 2019.
    2. repec:sls:ipmsls:v:36:y:2019:1 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Tiago Domingues, 2018. "Global Value Chains and Vertical Specialization: The case of Portuguese Textiles and Shoes exports," GEE Papers 00117, Gabinete de Estratégia e Estudos, Ministério da Economia, revised Jan 2019.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • F62 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Macroeconomic Impacts

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