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Why Are Americans More Productive Than Canadians?

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  • Andrew Sharpe

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Abstract

The objective of this paper is to document the evolution of the Canada-U.S. labour productivity gap and to offer an explanation of why Americans have been and continue to be, on average, more productive than Canadians. This focus on relative productivity levels is in contrast to the typical focus on the gap between productivity growth rates in Canada and the United States. The paper finds that Canada’s level of output per person employed was 81.0 per cent of the U.S. level in 2002. This was the lowest relative level since the late 1960s. The general conclusions on the size of the output per hour gap are that output per hour has always been below that in the United States, the productivity gap has increased in the 1990s, particularly since 1994, and the current gap is between 11 and 19 percentage points depending on the source of hours data used. Five main reasons are advanced for this, namely: the lower capital intensity of economic activity in Canada; an innovation gap in Canada relative to the United States; Canada’s relatively underdeveloped high-tech sector; less developed human capital in Canada in terms of proportionately fewer university graduates and scientists and engineers in research and development; and more limited economies of scale and scope in Canada.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Sharpe, 2003. "Why Are Americans More Productive Than Canadians?," CSLS Research Reports 2003-03, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
  • Handle: RePEc:sls:resrep:0303
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    File URL: http://www.csls.ca/reports/10-03-03_can-us.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jeffrey I. Bernstein & Richard G. Harris & Andrew Sharpe, 2002. "The Widening Canada-US Productivity Gap in Manufaturing," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 5, pages 3-22, Fall.
    2. Someshwar Rao & Jianmin Tang & Weimin Wang, 2002. "The Importance of Skills for Innovation and Productivity," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 4, pages 15-26, Spring.
    3. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2003. "Gravity with Gravitas: A Solution to the Border Puzzle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 170-192, March.
    4. Someshwar Rao & Ashfaq Ahmad & William Horsman & Phaedra Kaptein-Russell, 2001. "The Importance of Innovation for Productivity," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 2, pages 11-18, Spring.
    5. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, "undated". "The Productivity of Nations," Working Papers 96012, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
    6. Baldwin, John R. & Jarmin , Ron S. & Tang, Jianmin, 2002. "The Trend to Smaller Producers in Manufacturing: A Canada/U.S. Comparison," Economic Analysis (EA) Research Paper Series 2002003e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
    7. Martin Neil Baily & Robert M. Solow, 2001. "International Productivity Comparisons Built from the Firm Level," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 151-172, Summer.
    8. Dachraoui, Kais & Harchaoui, Tarek, 2003. "A Frontier Approach to Canada-U.S. Multifactor Productivity Performance," Economic Analysis (EA) Research Paper Series 2003010e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
    9. Jeremy Smith, 2003. "International Productivity Comparisons: An Examination of Data Sources," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 6, pages 64-71, Spring.
    10. Andrew Sharpe, 2002. "Productivity Concepts, Trends And Prospects: An Overview," The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress,in: Andrew Sharpe, Executive Director & France St-Hilaire, Vice-President , Research & Keith Banting, Di (ed.), The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress 2002: Towards a Social Understanding of Productivity, volume 2 Centre for the Study of Living Standards;The Institutute for Research on Public Policy.
    11. Lars Osberg & Andrew Sharpe, 2010. "The Index of Economic Well-Being," Challenge, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(4), pages 25-42.
    12. W. Erwin Diewert, 2003. "Measuring Capital," NBER Working Papers 9526, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Jianmin Tang & Frank C. Lee, 2000. "Productivity Levels and International Competitiveness between Canadian and U.S. Industries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 176-179, May.
    14. Osberg, Lars & Sharpe, Andrew, 2002. "An Index of Economic Well-Being for Selected OECD Countries," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 48(3), pages 291-316, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:mes:ijpoec:v:45:y:2016:i:4:p:257-293 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Jean-Francois Arsenault & Andrew Sharpe, 2008. "An Analysis of the Causes of Weak Labour Productivity Growth in Canada since 2000," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 16, pages 14-39, Spring.
    3. Someshwar Rao & Jianmin Tang & Weimin Wang, 2003. "Canada's Recent Productivity Record and Capital Accumulation," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 7, pages 24-38, Fall.
    4. Baldwin, John R. & Maynard, Jean-Pierre & Tanguay, Marc & Wong, Fanny & Yan, Beiling, 2005. "Comparaison des niveaux de productivite au Canada et aux Etats-Unis : etude de certains aspects de la mesure," Serie de documents de recherche sur l'analyse economique (AE) 2005028f, Statistics Canada, Direction des etudes analytiques.
    5. Jeremy Smith, 2004. "Assessing Aggregate Labour Productivity Trends in Canada and the United States: Total Economy versus Business Sector Perspectives," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 8, pages 47-58, Spring.
    6. Heisz, Andrew & Larochelle-Cote, Sebastien, 2007. "Understanding Regional Differences in Work Hours," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2007293e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
    7. Jeremy Smith, 2004. "Aggregate Labour Productivity Growth in Canada and the United States: Definitions, Trends and Measurement Issues," CSLS Research Reports 2004-04, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
    8. Centre for the Study of Living Standards, 2005. "What Explains the Canada-US ICT Investment Intensity Gap?," CSLS Research Reports 2005-06, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
    9. Pierre Kohler & Servaas Storm, 2016. "CETA without Blinders: How Cutting “Trade Costs and More” Will Cause Unemployment, Inequality, and Welfare Losses," International Journal of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(4), pages 257-293, October.
    10. Andrew Sharpe, 2004. "Ten Productivity Puzzles Facing Researchers," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 9, pages 15-24, Fall.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Productivity; Canada; United States; Employment; Hours; Hours of Work; Capital; International Comparisons; Purchasing Power Parity; Labour Productivity Gap; Level Gap; Alternative Data Sources;

    JEL classification:

    • O51 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - U.S.; Canada
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • C82 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Macroeconomic Data; Data Access

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