NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Shihua Lu

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Working Papers

April 2003Why Plant-Level Productivity Studies are Often Misleading, and an Alternative Approach to Interference
with Haijime Katayama, James Tybout: w9617
Applied economists often wish to measure the effects of managerial decisions or policy changes on plant-level productivity patterns. But plant-level data on physical quantities of output, capital, and intermediate inputs are usually unavailable. Therefore, when constructing productivity measures, most analysts proxy these variables with real sales revenues, depreciated capital spending, and real input expenditures. The first part of this paper argues 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. The second part of the paper develops an alternative approach to inference. Using Steven Berry's ...

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