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Rejecting capital-skill complementarity at all costs

  • Frondel, Manuel
  • Schmidt, Christoph M.

Any serious empirical study of factor substitutability has to allow the data to display complementarity as well as substitutability. The standard approach reflecting this idea is a translog specification – this is also the approach used by numerous studies analyzing the relative capital-skill complementarity hypothesis formulated by GRILICHES (1969). According to this hypothesis, the degree of substitutability between skilled labor and capital is lower than that for unskilled labor and capital. Yet, the results of empirical studies investigating this hypothesis are controversial. This paper offers a straightforward explanation: Using a translog approach reduces the issue of factor substitutability or complementarity to a question of cost shares. Our review of translog studies mentioned in HAMERMESH?s (1993) summary on the demand for heterogeneous labor demonstrates that this argument is empirically relevant – all these studies can be reconciled with each other on the basis of the cost-share argument.

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Paper provided by ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research in its series ZEW Discussion Papers with number 01-27.

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Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:5382
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  1. Denny, Michael & Fuss, Melvyn A, 1977. "The Use of Approximation Analysis to Test for Separability and the Existence of Consistent Aggregates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 404-18, June.
  2. Manuel Frondel & Christoph M. Schmidt, 2002. "The Capital-Energy Controversy: An Artifact of Cost Shares?," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 53-79.
  3. Freeman, Richard B & Medoff, James L, 1982. "Substitution between Production Labor and Other Inputs in Unionized and Nonunionized Manufacturing," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(2), pages 220-33, May.
  4. Ryan, David L. & Wales, Terence J., 2000. "Imposing local concavity in the translog and generalized Leontief cost functions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 253-260, June.
  5. Turnovsky, Michelle H L & Donnelly, William A, 1984. "Energy Substitution, Separability, and Technical Progress in the Australian Iron and Steel Industry," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 2(1), pages 54-63, January.
  6. Berndt, Ernst R & Christensen, Laurits R, 1974. "Testing for the Existence of a Consistent Aggregate Index of Labor Inputs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(3), pages 391-404, June.
  7. Kumbhakar, Subal C., 1997. "Modeling allocative inefficiency in a translog cost function and cost share equations: An exact relationship," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1-2), pages 351-356.
  8. Lutz Bellmann & Stefan Bender & Thorsten Schank, 1999. "Flexibility of Firms' Labor Demand: Substitutability or Complementarity," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Department of Statistics and Economics, vol. 219(1+2), pages 109-126, July.
  9. Michael Funke & Felix FitzRoy, 1995. "Skills, Wages, and Employment in East and West Germany," IMF Working Papers 95/4, International Monetary Fund.
  10. Berger, Mark C., 1984. "Increases in energy prices, costs of production, and plant size," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 345-357, August.
  11. Bergstrom, Villy & Panas, Epaminondas E, 1992. "How Robust Is the Capital-Skill Complementarity Hypothesis?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(3), pages 540-46, August.
  12. Berndt, Ernst R. & Morrisson, Catherine J., 1979. "Income redistribution and employment effects of rising energy prices," Resources and Energy, Elsevier, vol. 2(2-3), pages 131-150.
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