Declining Business Dynamism
Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM (PDT)
- Chair: Ufuk Akcigit, University of Chicago
What Happened to United States Business Dynamism?
AbstractIn the past several decades, the U.S. economy has witnessed a number of striking trends that indicate a rising market concentration and a slowdown in business dynamism. In this paper, we make an attempt to understand potential common forces behind these empirical regularities through the lens of a micro-founded general equilibrium model of endogenous firm dynamics. Importantly, the theoretical model captures the strategic behavior between competing firms, its effect on their innovation decisions, and the resulting ``best vs. the rest' dynamics. We focus on four potential mechanisms that can potentially drive the observed changes and use the calibrated model to assess the relative importance of these channels. One particular exercise replicates the transitional dynamics of the U.S. economy through joint moves in all four channels and decomposes the contribution of each channel to the resulting trends. Our results highlight the dominant role of a decline in the intensity of knowledge diffusion from the frontier firms to the laggard ones in explaining the observed shifts. We conclude by presenting new evidence that corroborates a declining knowledge diffusion in the economy. We document higher concentration of patenting in the hands of firms with the largest stock and a changing nature of patents, especially in the post-2000 period, which suggests a heavy use of intellectual property protection by market leaders to limit the dissemination of knowledge. These findings present a potential avenue for future research on the drivers of declining knowledge diffusion.
The Productivity J-Curve: How Intangibles Complement General Purpose Technologies
AbstractGeneral purpose technologies (GPTs) such as AI enable and require significant complementary investments, including business process redesign, co-invention of new products and business models, and investments in human capital. These complementary investments are often intangible and poorly measured in the national accounts, even if they create valuable assets for the firm. We develop a model that shows how this leads to an underestimation of output and productivity in the early years of a new GPT, and how later, when the benefits of intangible investments are harvested, productivity will be overestimated. Our model generates a Productivity J-Curve that can explain the productivity slowdowns often accompanying the advent of GPTs, as well as the follow-on increase in productivity later. We use our model to assess how AI-related intangible capital is currently affecting measured total factor productivity (TFP) and output. We also conduct a historical analysis of the roles of intangibles tied to R&D, software, and computer hardware, finding substantial and ongoing effects of software in particular and hardware to a lesser extent.
Slower Productivity and Higher Inequality: Are They Related?
AbstractIncome growth for typical American families has slowed dramatically since 1973. Slower productivity growth and an increase in income inequality have both contributed to this trend. This paper addresses whether there is a relationship between the productivity slowdown and the increase in inequality, specifically exploring the extent to which reduced competition and dynamism can explain both of these phenomena. Productivity growth has been uneven across the economy, with top firms earning increasingly skewed returns. At the same time, the between-firm disparities have been important in explaining the increase in labor income inequality. Both these findings are consistent with the observed reductions in competition, as evidenced by increasing concentration and economic rents, and business dynamism. The authors also explore the scenarios under which government policies can help mitigate, or contribute to, declining competition and dynamism.
- O4 - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity
- L5 - Regulation and Industrial Policy