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Measuring Productivity Dispersion: Lessons From Counting One-Hundred Million Ballots

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We measure output per worker in nearly 8,000 municipalities in the Italian electoral process using ballot counting times in the 2013 general election and two referenda in 2016. We document large productivity dispersion across provinces in this very uniform and low-skill task that involves nearly no technology and requires limited physical capital. Using a development accounting framework, this measure explains up to half of the firm-level productivity dispersion across Italian provinces and more than half the north-south productivity gap in Italy. We explore potential drivers of our measure of labor efficiency and we find that its association with measures of work ethic and trust are particularly robust.

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  • Ethan Ilzetzki & Saverio Simonelli, 2017. "Measuring Productivity Dispersion: Lessons From Counting One-Hundred Million Ballots," CSEF Working Papers 483, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  • Handle: RePEc:sef:csefwp:483
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    Keywords

    Labor productivity; development accounting; work ethic; cultural economics.;

    JEL classification:

    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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