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Information Technology as a Factor of Production: The Role of Differences Among Firms

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  • Erik Brynjolfsson
  • Lorin Hitt

Abstract

Despite evidence that information technology (IT) has recently become a productive investment for a large cross-section of firms, a number of questions remain. Some of these issues can be addressed by extending the basic production function approach that was applied in earlier work. Specifically, in this short paper we 1) control for individual firm differences in productivity by employing a "firm effects" specification, 2) consider the more flexible translog specification instead of only the Cobb-Douglas specification, and 3) allow all parameters to vary between various subsectors of the economy. We find that while "firm effects" may account for as much as half of the productivity benefits imputed to IT in earlier studies, the elasticity of IT remains positive and statistically significant. We also find that the estimates of IT elasticity and marginal product are little-changed when the less restrictive translog production function is employed. Finally, we find only limited evidence of differences in IT's marginal product between manufacturing and services and between the "measurable" and "unmeasurable" sectors of the economy. Surprisingly, we find that the marginal product of IT is at least as high in firms that did not grow during 1988-1992 sample period as it is in firms that grew.

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  • Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin Hitt, 1997. "Information Technology as a Factor of Production: The Role of Differences Among Firms," Working Paper Series 201, MIT Center for Coordination Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:mitccs:201
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    1. Bronwyn Hall, 2004. "The financing of research and development," Chapters,in: Financial Systems, Corporate Investment in Innovation, and Venture Capital, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Berndt, Ernst R. & Morrison, Catherine J., 1995. "High-tech capital formation and economic performance in U.S. manufacturing industries An exploratory analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 9-43, January.
    3. Jensen, Michael C, 1986. "Agency Costs of Free Cash Flow, Corporate Finance, and Takeovers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 323-329, May.
    4. Catherine J. Morrison, 2000. "Assessing The Productivity Of Information Technology Equipment In U.S. Manufacturing Industries," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(3), pages 471-481, August.
    5. Donald Siegel & Zvi Griliches, 1992. "Purchased Services, Outsourcing, Computers, and Productivity in Manufacturing," NBER Chapters,in: Output Measurement in the Service Sectors, pages 429-460 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Brynjolfsson, Erik. & Hitt, Lorin M. & Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Industrial Performance Center., 1994. "Computers and economic growth : firm-level evidence," Working papers 3714-94. CISR WP ; no. 27, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    7. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-528, June.
    8. Frank R. Lichtenberg, 1993. "The Output Contributions of Computer Equipment and Personnel: A Firm- Level Analysis," NBER Working Papers 4540, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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