An Estimation of U.S. Industry-Level Capital-Labor Substitution
A key parameter that determines the distributional impacts of a policy shift in general equilibrium models is the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor. Despite the importance of this parameter in applied modeling, its identification continues to pose a challenge. Given the structure of most growth models, we posit that the true relationship between capital and labor is likely to be close to Cobb- Douglas. Using a rich new data set from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, we estimate substitution elasticities for 28 industries, which cover the entire economy, and provide an indication of the long- and short-run estimates. We fail to reject the Cobb-Douglas specification in 20 of the 28 industries. These findings lend support to the Cobb-Douglas specification as a transparent starting point in simulation analysis.
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