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The cobb-douglas function as an approximation of other functions


  • Frédéric Reynès

    (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek)


By defining the Variable Output Elasticities Cobb-Douglas function, this article shows that a large class of production functions can be approximated by a Cobb-Douglas function with nonconstant output elasticity. Compared to standard flexible functions such as the Translog function, this framework has several advantages. It requires only the use of the first order approximation while respecting the theoretical curvature conditions of the isoquants. This greatly facilitates the deduction of linear input demands function without the need of involving the duality theorem. Moreover, it allows for a generalization of the CES function to the case where the elasticity of substitution between each pair of inputs is not necessarily the same.

Suggested Citation

  • Frédéric Reynès, 2011. "The cobb-douglas function as an approximation of other functions," Sciences Po publications 2011-21, Sciences Po.
  • Handle: RePEc:spo:wpmain:info:hdl:2441/eu4vqp9ompqllr09i29kgilc0

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Matthieu Lemoine & Gian Luigi Mazzi & Paola Monperrus-Veroni & Frédéric Reynes, 2010. "A new production function estimate of the euro area output gap This paper is based on a report for Eurostat: 'Real time estimation of potential output, output gap, NAIRU and Phillips curve for Euro-zo," Journal of Forecasting, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(1-2), pages 29-53.
    2. Christensen, Laurits R & Jorgenson, Dale W & Lau, Lawrence J, 1973. "Transcendental Logarithmic Production Frontiers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 55(1), pages 28-45, February.
    3. Frédéric Reynes & Yasser Yeddir-Tamsamani & Gaël Callonec, 2011. "Presentation of the Three-ME model: Multi-sector Macroeconomic Model for the Evaluation of Environmental and Energy policy," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2011-10, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    4. S K Mishra, 2010. "A Brief History of Production Functions," The IUP Journal of Managerial Economics, IUP Publications, vol. 0(4), pages 6-34, November.
    5. Diewert, Walter E & Wales, Terence J, 1987. "Flexible Functional Forms and Global Curvature Conditions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 43-68, January.
    6. Perroni, Carlo & Rutherford, Thomas F., 1995. "Regular flexibility of nested CES functions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 335-343, February.
    7. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
    8. Blanchard, Olivier Jean & Kiyotaki, Nobuhiro, 1987. "Monopolistic Competition and the Effects of Aggregate Demand," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 647-666, September.
    9. Blackorby, Charles & Russell, R Robert, 1989. "Will the Real Elasticity of Substitution Please Stand Up? (A Comparison of the Allen/Uzawa and Morishima Elasticities)," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 882-888, September.
    10. Dale W. Jorgenson, 1998. "Growth, Volume 1: Econometric General Equilibrium Modeling," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262100738, January.
    11. Jesus Felipe & F. Gerard Adams, 2005. ""A Theory of Production" The Estimation of the Cobb-Douglas Function: A Retrospective View," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 31(3), pages 427-445, Summer.
    12. K. Sato, 1967. "A Two-Level Constant-Elasticity-of-Substitution Production Function," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(2), pages 201-218.
    13. Grant, James H., 1993. "The translog approximate function : Substitution among inputs in manufacturing evaluated at sample means," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 235-240.
    14. Diewert, W E, 1971. "An Application of the Shephard Duality Theorem: A Generalized Leontief Production Function," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(3), pages 481-507, May-June.
    15. Samuelson, Paul A, 1979. "Paul Douglas's Measurement of Production Functions and Marginal Productivities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 923-939, October.
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    More about this item


    flexible production functions; Cobb-Douglas function; CES function;

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production


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