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Why is Productivity Correlated with Competition?

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  • Matthew Backus

Abstract

The correlation between productivity and competition is an oft–observed but ill–understood result. Some suggest that there is a treatment effect of competition on measured productivity, e.g. through a reduction of managerial slack. Others argue that greater competition makes unproductive establishments exit by reallocating demand to their productive rivals, raising observed average productivity via selection. I study the ready-mix concrete industry and offer three perspectives on this ambivalence. First, using a standard decomposition approach, I find no evidence of greater reallocation of demand to productive plants in more competitive markets. Second, I model the establishment exit decision and construct a semi-parametric selection correction to quantify the empirical significance of treatment and selection. Finally, I use a grouped IV quantile regression to test the distributional predictions of the selection hypothesis. I find no evidence for greater selection or reallocation in more competitive markets; instead, all three results suggest that measured productivity responds directly to competition. Potential channels include specialization and managerial inputs.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew Backus, 2019. "Why is Productivity Correlated with Competition?," NBER Working Papers 25748, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25748
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance
    • L61 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Metals and Metal Products; Cement; Glass; Ceramics

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