Firm-level productivity studies

Illusions and a solution

Hajime Katayama, Shihua Lu, James Tybout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

67 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Applied economists often wish to measure the effects of policy changes (like trade liberalization) or managerial decisions (like R&D expenditures or exporting) on firm-level productivity patterns. But firm-level data on physical quantities of output, capital, and intermediate inputs are typically unobservable. Therefore, when constructing productivity measures, most analysts proxy these variables with real sales revenues, depreciated capital spending, and real input expenditures. Our first objective is to argue that the resultant productivity indices have little to do with technical efficiency, product quality, or contributions to social welfare. Nonetheless, they are likely to be correlated with policy shocks and managerial decisions in misleading ways. Our second objective is to develop an alternative approach to inference. We assume firms' costs and revenues reflect a Bertrand-Nash equilibrium in a differentiated product industry, as in Berry [Berry, Steven (1994) "Estimating discrete-choice models of product differentiation," Rand Journal 25(2), pp. 242-262.]. This allows us to impute each firm's unobserved marginal costs and product appeal from its observed revenues and costs. With these in hand, we calculate each firm's contribution to consumer and producer surplus. Further, we link these welfare measures to policy and managerial decisions by assuming that marginal costs and product appeal indices follow vector autoregressive (VAR) processes, conditioned on policy proxies and/or managerial choice variables. We estimate the demand system parameters and VAR parameters jointly using Bayesian techniques. Applying our methodology to panel data on Colombian paper producers, we study the relation between our welfare-based measures and conventional productivity measures. We find that the two are only weakly correlated with one another. Further, they give contrasting pictures of the relationship between firms' performances and their participation in foreign markets. One reason is that product appeal variation has little effect on standard productivity indices, but it is captured by welfare-based performance measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-413
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Industrial Organization
Volume27
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2009

Fingerprint

Productivity
Costs
Sales
Revenue
Managerial decisions
Industry
Productivity index
Expenditure
Marginal cost
Marginal product

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Industrial relations
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

Cite this

@article{8cdf4930320c45b79d7296049b8d1ef3,
title = "Firm-level productivity studies: Illusions and a solution",
abstract = "Applied economists often wish to measure the effects of policy changes (like trade liberalization) or managerial decisions (like R&D expenditures or exporting) on firm-level productivity patterns. But firm-level data on physical quantities of output, capital, and intermediate inputs are typically unobservable. Therefore, when constructing productivity measures, most analysts proxy these variables with real sales revenues, depreciated capital spending, and real input expenditures. Our first objective is to argue that the resultant productivity indices have little to do with technical efficiency, product quality, or contributions to social welfare. Nonetheless, they are likely to be correlated with policy shocks and managerial decisions in misleading ways. Our second objective is to develop an alternative approach to inference. We assume firms' costs and revenues reflect a Bertrand-Nash equilibrium in a differentiated product industry, as in Berry [Berry, Steven (1994) {"}Estimating discrete-choice models of product differentiation,{"} Rand Journal 25(2), pp. 242-262.]. This allows us to impute each firm's unobserved marginal costs and product appeal from its observed revenues and costs. With these in hand, we calculate each firm's contribution to consumer and producer surplus. Further, we link these welfare measures to policy and managerial decisions by assuming that marginal costs and product appeal indices follow vector autoregressive (VAR) processes, conditioned on policy proxies and/or managerial choice variables. We estimate the demand system parameters and VAR parameters jointly using Bayesian techniques. Applying our methodology to panel data on Colombian paper producers, we study the relation between our welfare-based measures and conventional productivity measures. We find that the two are only weakly correlated with one another. Further, they give contrasting pictures of the relationship between firms' performances and their participation in foreign markets. One reason is that product appeal variation has little effect on standard productivity indices, but it is captured by welfare-based performance measures.",
author = "Hajime Katayama and Shihua Lu and James Tybout",
year = "2009",
month = "5",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1016/j.ijindorg.2008.11.002",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "27",
pages = "403--413",
journal = "International Journal of Industrial Organization",
issn = "0167-7187",
publisher = "Elsevier Inc.",
number = "3",

}

Firm-level productivity studies : Illusions and a solution. / Katayama, Hajime; Lu, Shihua; Tybout, James.

In: International Journal of Industrial Organization, Vol. 27, No. 3, 01.05.2009, p. 403-413.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Firm-level productivity studies

T2 - Illusions and a solution

AU - Katayama, Hajime

AU - Lu, Shihua

AU - Tybout, James

PY - 2009/5/1

Y1 - 2009/5/1

N2 - Applied economists often wish to measure the effects of policy changes (like trade liberalization) or managerial decisions (like R&D expenditures or exporting) on firm-level productivity patterns. But firm-level data on physical quantities of output, capital, and intermediate inputs are typically unobservable. Therefore, when constructing productivity measures, most analysts proxy these variables with real sales revenues, depreciated capital spending, and real input expenditures. Our first objective is to argue that the resultant productivity indices have little to do with technical efficiency, product quality, or contributions to social welfare. Nonetheless, they are likely to be correlated with policy shocks and managerial decisions in misleading ways. Our second objective is to develop an alternative approach to inference. We assume firms' costs and revenues reflect a Bertrand-Nash equilibrium in a differentiated product industry, as in Berry [Berry, Steven (1994) "Estimating discrete-choice models of product differentiation," Rand Journal 25(2), pp. 242-262.]. This allows us to impute each firm's unobserved marginal costs and product appeal from its observed revenues and costs. With these in hand, we calculate each firm's contribution to consumer and producer surplus. Further, we link these welfare measures to policy and managerial decisions by assuming that marginal costs and product appeal indices follow vector autoregressive (VAR) processes, conditioned on policy proxies and/or managerial choice variables. We estimate the demand system parameters and VAR parameters jointly using Bayesian techniques. Applying our methodology to panel data on Colombian paper producers, we study the relation between our welfare-based measures and conventional productivity measures. We find that the two are only weakly correlated with one another. Further, they give contrasting pictures of the relationship between firms' performances and their participation in foreign markets. One reason is that product appeal variation has little effect on standard productivity indices, but it is captured by welfare-based performance measures.

AB - Applied economists often wish to measure the effects of policy changes (like trade liberalization) or managerial decisions (like R&D expenditures or exporting) on firm-level productivity patterns. But firm-level data on physical quantities of output, capital, and intermediate inputs are typically unobservable. Therefore, when constructing productivity measures, most analysts proxy these variables with real sales revenues, depreciated capital spending, and real input expenditures. Our first objective is to argue that the resultant productivity indices have little to do with technical efficiency, product quality, or contributions to social welfare. Nonetheless, they are likely to be correlated with policy shocks and managerial decisions in misleading ways. Our second objective is to develop an alternative approach to inference. We assume firms' costs and revenues reflect a Bertrand-Nash equilibrium in a differentiated product industry, as in Berry [Berry, Steven (1994) "Estimating discrete-choice models of product differentiation," Rand Journal 25(2), pp. 242-262.]. This allows us to impute each firm's unobserved marginal costs and product appeal from its observed revenues and costs. With these in hand, we calculate each firm's contribution to consumer and producer surplus. Further, we link these welfare measures to policy and managerial decisions by assuming that marginal costs and product appeal indices follow vector autoregressive (VAR) processes, conditioned on policy proxies and/or managerial choice variables. We estimate the demand system parameters and VAR parameters jointly using Bayesian techniques. Applying our methodology to panel data on Colombian paper producers, we study the relation between our welfare-based measures and conventional productivity measures. We find that the two are only weakly correlated with one another. Further, they give contrasting pictures of the relationship between firms' performances and their participation in foreign markets. One reason is that product appeal variation has little effect on standard productivity indices, but it is captured by welfare-based performance measures.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=63449115091&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=63449115091&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.ijindorg.2008.11.002

DO - 10.1016/j.ijindorg.2008.11.002

M3 - Article

VL - 27

SP - 403

EP - 413

JO - International Journal of Industrial Organization

JF - International Journal of Industrial Organization

SN - 0167-7187

IS - 3

ER -