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Analysing global value chains using input-output economics: Proceed with care


  • Nomaler, Ö.

    () (UNU-MERIT, and TU Eindhoven)

  • Verspagen, B.

    () (UNU-MERIT)


Input-output economics has become a popular tool to analyse the international fragmentation of value chains, especially now that several multi-regional tables that cover large parts of the global economy have become available. It has been argued that these tables, when analysed with the help of the input-output economics toolbox, can provide better insights about global value chains than can be obtained by case studies of individual value chains. We argue that there are several problems related to the aggregated nature of the input-output table that may lead to large distortions and biases in the aggregate picture about global value chains that is obtained by input-output analysis. There are three main sources behind the distortion obtained in static decompositions of value chains the average nature of value added to output ratios in the tables, the emergence of production cycles in the process of aggregating several value chains into a single table, and the characteristic of the so-called inverse Leontief matrix to even out the value added distribution. We provide an overview of how these distortions work, and argue that under a wide range of circumstances, input-output methods tend to overstate the contribution of the final sector to the value chain. We also show that this bias does not vanish when we compare input-output decompositions at two different points in time.

Suggested Citation

  • Nomaler, Ö. & Verspagen, B., 2014. "Analysing global value chains using input-output economics: Proceed with care," MERIT Working Papers 2014-070, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  • Handle: RePEc:unm:unumer:2014070

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jyrki Ali-Yrkkö & Petri Rouvinen & Timo Seppälä & Pekka Ylä-Anttila, 2011. "Who Captures Value in Global Supply Chains? Case Nokia N95 Smartphone," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 263-278, September.
    2. Marcel P. Timmer & Abdul Azeez Erumban & Bart Los & Robert Stehrer & Gaaitzen J. de Vries, 2014. "Slicing Up Global Value Chains," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(2), pages 99-118, Spring.
    3. Johnson, Robert C. & Noguera, Guillermo, 2012. "Accounting for intermediates: Production sharing and trade in value added," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 224-236.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jan Fagerberg & Bengt-Åke Lundvall & Martin Srholec, 2018. "Global Value Chains, National Innovation Systems and Economic Development," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 30(3), pages 533-556, July.
    2. Foster-McGregor, Neil & Kaulich, Florian & Stehrer, Robert, 2015. "Global Value Chains in Africa," MERIT Working Papers 2015-024, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    3. Lucia Tajoli & Giulia Felice, 2018. "Global Value Chains Participation and Knowledge Spillovers in Developed and Developing Countries: An Empirical Investigation," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 30(3), pages 505-532, July.

    More about this item


    Value chain; Globalization; Input-output economics; Input-output models; Input-output method;

    JEL classification:

    • C67 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Input-Output Models
    • F62 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Macroeconomic Impacts

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