Productivity Growth in the 1990s: Technology, Utilization, or Adjustment?

Susanto Basu, John G. Fernald, Matthew D. Shapiro

NBER Working Paper No. 8359
Issued in July 2001
NBER Program(s):   EFG   PR

Measured productivity growth increased substantially during the second half of the 1990s. This paper examines whether this increase owes to an increase in the rate of technological change or whether it can be explained by non-technological factors relating to factor utilization, factor accumulation, or returns to scale. It finds that the recent increase in productivity growth does appear to arise from an increase in technological change. Cyclical utilization raised measured productivity growth relative to technology growth in the first part of the expansion, but lowered it subsequently. Factor adjustment leads to a steady-state understatement of technology growth by measured productivity growth. The understatement was greater in the second half of the expansion than the first. Changes in the distribution of inputs across industries with different returns to scale lead to a modest understatement in the growth in technology. Although the increase technological change is most pronounced in durable manufacturing, technological change also increased outside of manufacturing.

download in pdf format
   (312 K)

email paper

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the October 2001 NBER digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

This paper is available as PDF (312 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8359

Published: Basu, Susanto & Fernald, John G. & Shapiro, Matthew D., 2001. "Productivity growth in the 1990s: technology, utilization, or adjustment?," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 117-165, December. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Bernanke and Gurkaynak w8365 Is Growth Exogenous? Taking Mankiw, Romer and Weil Seriously
Basu w5336 Procyclical Productivity: Increasing Returns or Cyclical Utilization?
Basu and Fernald Why Is Productivity Procyclical? Why Do We Care?
Basu and Kimball w5915 Cyclical Productivity with Unobserved Input Variation
Gordon w18315 Is U.S. Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts the Six Headwinds
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us