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Why Plant-Level Productivity Studies are Often Misleading, and an Alternative Approach to Interference

  • Haijime Katayama
  • Shihua Lu
  • James Tybout

Applied economists often wish to measure the effects of managerial decisions or policy changes on plant-level productivity patterns. But plant-level data on physical quantities of output, capital, and intermediate inputs are usually unavailable. Therefore, when constructing productivity measures, most analysts proxy these variables with real sales revenues, depreciated capital spending, and real input expenditures. The first part of this paper argues that the resultant productivity indices have little to do with technical efficiency, product quality, or contributions to social welfare. Nonetheless, they are likely to be correlated with policy shocks and managerial decisions in misleading ways. The second part of the paper develops an alternative approach to inference. Using Steven Berry's (1994, RAND Journal) representation of equilibrium in a differentiated product market, we show how to impute each plant's unobserved marginal costs and product quality from its observed revenues and costs, and how to use this mapping to calculate plant-specific welfare-based performance measures. (Bayesian estimation techniques are required because the vector of unknown parameters is under-identified.) The final part of the paper demonstrates our methodology using panel data on Colombian pulp and paper plants.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9617.

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Date of creation: Apr 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9617
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  1. Tor Jakob Klette & Zvi Griliches, 1994. "The Inconsistency of Common Scales Estimators when Output Prices are Unobserved and Endogenous," Discussion Papers 127, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
  2. Andrew B. Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jensen & Samuel Kortum, 2003. "Plants and Productivity in International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1268-1290, September.
  3. G. Steven Olley & Ariel Pakes, 1992. "The Dynamics of Productivity in the Telecommunications Equipment Industry," NBER Working Papers 3977, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Ariel Pakes & Paul McGuire, 1992. "Computing Markov perfect Nash equilibria: numerical implications of a dynamic differentiated product model," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 58, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. Vernon Henderson, 2001. "Marshall's Scale Economies," Working Papers 01-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  6. Andrew Caplin & Barry Nalebuff, 1990. "Aggregation and Imperfect Competition: On the Existence of Equilibrium," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 937, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  7. Lahiri, Kajal & Gao, Jian, 2002. "Bayesian analysis of nested logit model by Markov chain Monte Carlo," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 111(1), pages 103-133, November.
  8. Nina Pavcnik, 2000. "Trade Liberalization, Exit, and Productivity Improvements: Evidence from Chilean Plants," NBER Working Papers 7852, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Cardell, N. Scott, 1997. "Variance Components Structures for the Extreme-Value and Logistic Distributions with Application to Models of Heterogeneity," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(02), pages 185-213, April.
  10. Aw, Bee Yan & Chen, Xiaomin & Roberts, Mark J., 2001. "Firm-level evidence on productivity differentials and turnover in Taiwanese manufacturing," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 51-86, October.
  11. Poirier, Dale J., 1996. "A Bayesian analysis of nested logit models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 163-181, November.
  12. Tybout, James R. & Westbrook, M. Daniel, 1995. "Trade liberalization and the dimensions of efficiency change in Mexican manufacturing industries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1-2), pages 53-78, August.
  13. Tybout, James, 1998. "Manufacuring firms in developing countries - how well do they do, and why?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1965, The World Bank.
  14. Kraay, Aart & Soloaga, Isidro & Tybout, James, 2002. "Product quality, productive efficiency, and international technology diffusion : evidence from plant-level panel data," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2759, The World Bank.
  15. Tor Jakob Klette & Arvid Raknerud, 2002. "How and why do Firms differ?," Discussion Papers 320, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
  16. Aitken, Brian & Harrison, Ann & DEC, 1994. "Do domestic firms benefit from foreign direct investment? Evidence from panel data," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1248, The World Bank.
  17. Daniel A. Ackerberg & Marc Rysman, 2005. "Unobserved Product Differentiation in Discrete-Choice Models: Estimating Price Elasticities and Welfare Effects," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(4), pages 771-788, Winter.
  18. Blomstrom, Magnus & Kokko, Ari, 1997. "How foreign investment affects host countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1745, The World Bank.
  19. Jacques Mairesse & Mohamed Sassenou, 1991. "R&D Productivity: A Survey of Econometric Studies at the Firm Level," NBER Working Papers 3666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Bahk, Byong-Hong & Gort, Michael, 1993. "Decomposing Learning by Doing in New Plants," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(4), pages 561-83, August.
  21. Steven T. Berry, 1994. "Estimating Discrete-Choice Models of Product Differentiation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(2), pages 242-262, Summer.
  22. Berry, Steven & Levinsohn, James & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 841-90, July.
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