Skip to main content

Summary

The “Weighty” Manufacturing Sector: Transforming Raw Materials into Physical Goods
Author(s):
Erica Fuchs, Carnegie Mellon University and NBER
Kate S. Whitefoot, Carnegie Mellon University
Britta Glennon, University of Pennsylvania and NBER
Christophe B. Combemale, Carnegie Mellon University
Discussant(s):
Kathryn L. Shaw, Stanford University and NBER
Abstract:

The manufacturing sector encompasses a diverse set of industries that are involved in the transformation of raw materials into physical goods. Over the last two decades, the US' manufacturing value added (MVA) has slightly grown, however, the US' percentage of global MVA has declined due to China's exponential rise. Likewise, in contrast to net employment in the US economy, which has increased, net employment in manufacturing (while growing slightly since 2010) is significantly lower than in the 1980s. As a whole, the manufacturing sector involves higher value added per capita employed, a greater proportion of the labor force with education at the high school level or below while having on average higher wages for that labor force, higher industry spending on R&D, and fewer private equity / venture capital deals financing new ventures than non-manufacturing industries such as services (including software). The US' relatively high R&D spending on manufacturing (66% of industrial R&D) and comparatively low manufacturing value added (14%) is at least in part due to the globalization of manufacturing facilities in the last decade. The above said, drawing implications from sector-wide trends can be misleading because of the variation in these indicators across sub-sectors. At the five-digit NAICS code level, the top sources of employment are animal processing, aerospace products, and printing (on various materials including textile, metal, plastics), the top sources of revenue are petroleum refineries and automotive, and the top source of R&D spending is pharmaceuticals. Considering the sector's diversity will be critical to understanding productivity and labor outcome effects, and appropriate policy responses, if any.

Downloads:
Education and Innovation
Author(s):
Barbara Biasi, Yale University and NBER
David J. Deming, Harvard University and NBER
Petra Moser, New York University and NBER
Discussant(s):
Abstract:

Education and Innovation

Concentration and agglomeration of IT innovation: Evidence from patenting
Author(s):
Chris Forman, Cornell University
Avi Goldfarb, University of Toronto and NBER
Discussant(s):
Erik Brynjolfsson, Stanford University and NBER
Abstract:

Information technology (IT) matters to prosperity. The top patenters are increasingly IT companies. Forman and Goldfarb use data on US patents to document four trends in IT patenting. First, they show that firm-level concentration in IT patenting is increasing over time. Second, they show that geographic concentration in IT patenting is increasing over time. Third, the researchers show that most technology classes experienced a decline in new patenters from 19802000. This was not true of new IT patents. Since 2000, the trend in new IT patenters looks like other classes and is declining over time. Fourth, there is increased geographic concentration of new IT patenters. The researchers do not identify the reasons behind these trends nor whether they are related to overall changes in industry concentration, agglomeration, or prosperity.

Downloads:
Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Health Care
Author(s):
Amitabh Chandra, Harvard University and NBER
Discussant(s):
Heidi L. Williams, Stanford University and NBER
Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Energy Sector
Author(s):
David Popp, Syracuse University and NBER
Jacquelyn Pless, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Nick Johnstone, International Energy Agency
Discussant(s):
Hunt Allcott, New York University and NBER
Abstract:

Innovation in the energy sector often proceeds slowly, and entrepreneurial start-up firms have historically played a minor role. Popp, Pless, Hascic, and Johnstone argue that this may be changing. Energy markets are going through a period of profound structural change. The rise of hydrofracturing lowered fossil fuel prices so much that natural gas is now the primary fuel for electricity generation in the US. Renewable energy technologies have also experienced significant cost and performance improvements. However, integrating intermittent resources creates additional grid management challenges requiring more innovation, which must be achieved quickly if climate policy goals are to be met. The researchers document the evolving roles of innovation and entrepreneurship in the energy sector. First, they provide an overview of the energy industry, noting that many new energy technologies are smaller, more modular, and increasingly rely on innovation in other high-tech sectors where innovation typically moves more rapidly. They then conduct two descriptive data analyses, documenting a sharp decline in both clean energy patenting and start-up activity from about 2010 onwards. The researchers discuss potential explanations and provide some evidence that innovation in existing technologies may simply have been successful, whereas continued innovation may be needed in enabling technologies that are more likely to depend on innovation in other sectors. They conclude that the increased complementarity of energy and high-tech innovations provides potential for faster paced energy innovation moving forward. However, understanding the impact of venture capital funding on such progress requires more rigorous evaluation.

Downloads:

In addition to the conference paper, the research was distributed as NBER Working Paper w27145, which may be a more recent version.

What’s Driving Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Transportation Sector?
Author(s):
Derrick Choe, New York University
Alexander Oettl, Georgia Institute of Technology and NBER
Robert Seamans, New York University
Discussant(s):
Gilles Duranton, University of Pennsylvania and NBER
Abstract:

Choe, Oettl, and Seamans draw from prior literature and a range of statistics to describe economic, entrepreneurial, and innovative activities in the transportation sector. Analysis of recent trends suggest that warehousing is playing an increasingly important role. The researchers argue for more research on the role of warehousing in particular. They also review several new technologies, including autonomous vehicles, drones, and robots, that are starting to affect transportation and warehousing.

Downloads:
Digitization and its Consequences for Creative-Industry Product and Labor Markets
Author(s):
Joel Waldfogel, University of Minnesota and NBER
Discussant(s):
Gustavo Manso, University of California at Berkeley
Abstract:

Digitization has transformed many of the creative industries by reducing the costs of creating new products and bringing them to market. This chapter asks two related questions. First, how large are the welfare benefits of new digitization-enabled new products? Traditionally, the benefits of digitization have been evaluated through a “long tail” lens, in which digitization’s benefit is infinite shelf space, so that consumers have access to all existing products. Aguiar and Waldfogel (2018) provide a different characterization focusing on the effect of newly created products. Because product success is unpredictable, an increase in the number of new products can bring forth a mix of products, including valuable products which otherwise would not have come to market. This research adapts this approach to measure the welfare benefits of the new digitization-enabled products in movies, books, and television. Available data on movies, television, and books confirm earlier findings for music that the random long tail is large compared with the conventional long tail. Related, the welfare benefit of new creative products is substantial. The research also examines the labor-market consequences of digitization for creators. Available evidence on creative labor markets confirms increased activity evidence in product market creation data. And while total earnings of creative workers are rising, average earnings per worker are falling, primarily at the low end of the earnings distribution.

Downloads:
Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Housing and Real Estate
Author(s):
Edward Kung, California State University, Northridge
Discussant(s):
Jessie Handbury, University of Pennsylvania and NBER
Abstract:

Kung discusses innovation and entrepreneurship in residential real estate and construction (housing). Based on R&D spending and patent statistics, housing does not appear to be a very innovative sector. But in the last two decades, there has been a significant increase in the amount of investment going to real estate technology companies. Kung discusses the companies and technologies which have drawn the most attention from investors and then reviews the literature on two major innovation trends in housing: the growth of the internet as a tool for housing search, and the development of home-sharing platforms which allow homeowners to use their homes as short-term rentals. These innovations have likely increased the efficiency of housing markets, leading to higher quality matches between buyers and sellers, and more efficient utilization of space. However, the effects are hard to measure due to the difficulty of separating quality changes from price changes. In comparison to residential real estate, there appears to have been less recent innovation in residential construction. In many areas, residential construction is artificially constrained by local land use policies, and estimates from the literature suggest that relaxing these constraints could increase economic growth significantly. Finally, Kung discusses anti-competitive practices in real estate which may hinder entrepreneurship and the adoption of new innovations, and how innovation and entrepreneurship in other sectors may affect the housing market.

Downloads:
Innovation, Growth and Structural Change in American Agriculture
Author(s):
Julian Alston, University of California at Davis
Philip Pardey, University of Minnesota
Discussant(s):
Brian Wright, University of California at Berkeley
Abstract:

US agriculture was transformed during the 20th century by waves of innovation with mechanical, biological, chemical, and information technologies. Compared with a few decades ago, today’s agriculture is much less labor intensive and farms are much larger and more specialized, supplying a much-evolved market for farm products. Over recent decades, the global landscape for agricultural R&D has shifted away from farms, away from the public sector toward the private sector, and away from the United States toward agriculturally important middle-income countries, especially China, India and Brazil. US investments in agricultural R&D are stalling even though meta-evidence shows that past US investments in agricultural R&D have yielded very favorable returns: median reported benefit cost-ratios in the range of 12:1. Continuing US investment and innovation will be required to preserve past productivity gains in the face of climate change, coevolving pests and diseases, and changing technological regulations — let alone increase productivity. Great potential exists for innovation in crop and livestock genetics and digital farming technologies to generate new products and production processes, but innovators have to overcome increasingly strong headwinds from social and political forces that seek to dictate technology choices.

Downloads:
The Servicification of the U.S. Economy: The Role of Startups versus Incumbent Firms
Author(s):
Mercedes Delgado, Copenhagen Business School
J. Daniel Kim, University of Pennsylvania
Karen G. Mills, Harvard University
Discussant(s):
Sharat Ganapati, Georgetown University and NBER
Abstract:

Over the last few decades, the U.S. economy has exhibited a significant shift from manufacturing towards services. This transition has been particularly prominent in an important subcategory of services industries that drives innovation and employs many high-wage workers: Supply Chain Traded Services (Delgado and Mills, 2020). These industries provide specialized service inputs to organizations and are characterized by high upstreamness, which allow innovations to cascade down to other buyer industries. Delgado, Kim, and Mills explore the role of startups versus incumbent firms in driving the transition from manufacturing to Supply Chain Traded Services between 1998 and 2015. Using the Longitudinal Business Database of the U.S. Census Bureau, the researchers find that startups experienced a large decline in Supply Chain Traded Services, both in terms of entry of new firms and growth of young firms. Instead, job growth in this sector has been led by established firms: the transformation of incumbent manufacturing firms towards services (e.g., Intel), and the growth of incumbent Supply Chain Traded Service firms (e.g., Microsoft). To complement their empirical findings, Delgado, Kim, and Mills discuss potential barriers for entrepreneurial firms, and illustrate the servicification efforts of several established firms. They conclude by offering broad policy implications.

Downloads:
Innovation in the U.S. Federal Government
Author(s):
Joshua R. Bruce, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
John M. de Figueiredo, Duke University and NBER
Discussant(s):
Manuel Trajtenberg, Tel Aviv University and NBER
Abstract:

This paper examines the U.S. government’s intramural research and development efforts over a 40-year period, drawing together multiple human capital, government spending, and patent datasets. The U.S. Federal Government innovates along four dimensions: technological, organizational, regulatory, and policy. After discussing these dimensions, the paper focuses on the inputs to and outputs of government intramural technological innovation. Bruce and de Figueiredo measure innovative effort and results by accounting for the government scientists and dollars committed to R&D and patents created with government involvement. Overall, they show that intramural innovations, measured by government-assigned patents, are slightly more original and general, but less cited, than patents awarded to private-sector companies and extramural organizations patenting in the same technology classes. The majority of the 200,000 federal government scientists work at the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and NASA, and are largely in physical science and engineering occupations; the scientific expertise of other agencies is heavily weighted toward mathematics, social sciences, and data analytics. As these latter disciplines’ innovative outputs are less readily catalogued with patents, measuring total government innovative output with government-assigned patents is likely to over-emphasize innovations in engineering and physical sciences while under-reporting intramural innovations in other disciplines. Bruce and de Figueiredo discuss the implications of their findings for both public- and private-sector innovation efforts and pose questions for future research.

Downloads:

In addition to the conference paper, the research was distributed as NBER Working Paper w27181, which may be a more recent version.

The Recent Evolution of Physical Retail Markets: Online Retailing, Big Box Stores, and the Rise of Restaurants
Author(s):
Francine Lafontaine, University of Michigan
Jagadeesh Sivadasan, University of Michigan
Discussant(s):
Emek Basker, U.S. Census Bureau
Abstract:

Lafontaine and Sivadasan examine changes in the retail sector in the US over the period 1999 to 2017, a period during which new technologies and forms of competition have been associated with what has been dubbed a "retail apocalypse" in the trade press and beyond. Consistent with this notion of "retail apocalypse," the researchers begin by confirming a sizable decline in the number of establishments in the retail sector defined per the currently used NAICS classification scheme. They further document a strong increase in e-commerce sales from non-store retailers, and find suggestive evidence that sectors experiencing greater penetration of e-commerce exhibited larger relative decline in sales, number of physical stores, employment, and total payroll. However, the growth of Big Box stores (NAICS 45291), the second main factor often blamed for the reduction in number of retail establishments, flattened starkly after 2009, and the researchers find that changes in other retail activity in a county is, on average, positively correlated with increases in the presence of Big Box stores. Moreover, despite the documented lower number of physical stores in 2017 compared to the start of the period, it is found that both employment levels, real sales, real value added and real payroll of brick and mortar retailers had recovered to their pre-Great Recession peaks by 2017. Interestingly, the researchers document that including restaurants (NAICS 722) as part of the retail industry -- per the earlier Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) and consistent with the notion that these types of businesses use similar labor and real estate inputs -- yields much stronger physical retail activity in terms of aggregate establishments, employment, sales, value added and payroll throughout the period, propelled by remarkably strong growth in the restaurant sector. This growth in number of restaurants is widespread, both across the country (across counties at different income quintiles), and in terms of format (full service and limited service). Lafontaine and Sivadasan examine two channels for the rise of restaurants: they find no evidence for the first, i.e. the idea that this growth was propelled by a reduction in costs induced by the decline of other physical retail. Instead, they find suggestive evidence that two-thirds (one-half) of the growth in restaurant establishments (employment) can be attributed to the relative increase in consumer expenditure share for restaurant food. The researchers briefly summarize emerging trends, and significant venture capital funding for delivery and other services that may complement traditional physical retail stores.

Downloads:

Participants

James Cham, Bloomberg Data
Alexis de Raadt St. James, Merian Ventures
Katie Finnegan, Store No. 8
Andreea Danie. Gorbatai, University of California, Berkeley
Ilan Gur, Cyclotron Road
Sal Khan, Khan Academy

More from NBER

In addition to working papers, the NBER disseminates affiliates’ latest findings through a range of free periodicals — the NBER Reporter, the NBER Digest, the Bulletin on Retirement and Disability, and the Bulletin on Health — as well as online conference reports, video lectures, and interviews.

Economics of Digitization Figure 1
  • Article
The NBER Economics of Digitization Project, established in 2010 with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,...
claudiagoldinpromoimagelecture.png
  • Lecture
Claudia Goldin, the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University and a past president of the American...
2020 Methods Lecture Promo Image
  • Lecture
The extent to which individual responses to household surveys are protected from discovery by outside parties depends...