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Total Factor Productivity and Income Distribution: A Critical Review


  • Yongbok Jeon


The aim of the present paper is to critically reappraise the validity and the relevance of the notion of total factor productivity (TFP) as a measure of technological progress. Placing the focus on the role that the neoclassical distribution theory plays in measuring technological progress, we take up the recent revival of the tautology argument (Felipe & McCombie 2003) and the simple results of the capital controversies. First, I argue that the measure of TFP exclusively relies on the marginal productivity theory of distribution through which factors’ income shares are linked to their technological progress. Second, it will be shown that the marginal productivity theory of distribution is based on extremely limited theoretical and empirical grounds. Third, therefore, it is concluded that the measure of TFP as a measurement of the contribution made by technical progress to the economic growth has very little to do with the reality.

Suggested Citation

  • Yongbok Jeon, 2007. "Total Factor Productivity and Income Distribution: A Critical Review," Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, University of Utah 2007_04, University of Utah, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uta:papers:2007_04

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Aschauer, David Alan, 1989. "Is public expenditure productive?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 177-200, March.
    2. Alcino F. Câmara Neto & Matias Vernengo, 2004. "Fiscal policy and the Washington consensus: a Post Keynesian perspective," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(2), pages 333-343.
    3. J. Bradford De Long & Lawrence H. Summers, 1991. "Equipment Investment and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(2), pages 445-502.
    4. Gale, William G. & Orszag, Peter R., 2003. "Economic Effects of Sustained Budget Deficits," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 56(3), pages 463-485, September.
    5. Aschauer, David Alan, 1989. "Does public capital crowd out private capital?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 171-188, September.
    6. Barry Eichengreen & Ashoka Mody, 2000. "What Explains Changing Spreads on Emerging Market Debt?," NBER Chapters,in: Capital Flows and the Emerging Economies: Theory, Evidence, and Controversies, pages 107-134 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item


    Total Factor Productivity; Marginal Productivity Theory of Distribution; Income Accounting Identity; Capital Controversies;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

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