NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Outsourcing when Investments are Specific and Complementary

Alla Lileeva, Johannes Van Biesebroeck

NBER Working Paper No. 14477
Issued in November 2008
NBER Program(s):   IO   PR

Using the universe of large Canadian manufacturing firms in 1988 and 1996, we investigate to what extent outsourcing decision can be explained by a simple property rights model. The unique availability of disaggregate information on outputs as well as inputs permits the construction of a very detailed measure of vertical integration. We also construct five different measures of technological intensity to proxy for investments that are likely to be specific to a buyer-seller relationship. A theoretical model that allows for varying degrees of investment specificity and for complementarities---an externality between buyer and supplier investments---guides the analysis. Our main findings are that (i) greater specificity makes outsourcing less likely; (ii) complementarities between the investments of the buyer and the seller are also associated with less outsourcing; (iii) property rights predictions on the link between investment intensities and optimal ownership are only supported for transactions with low complementarities. High specificity and a low risk of appropriation strengthen the predictions in the model and in the data.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14477

Published: Alla Lileeva & Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2013. "Outsourcing When Investments Are Specific And Interrelated," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 871-896, 08.

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