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NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Upstream, Downstream: Diffusion and Impacts of the Universal Product Code

Emek Basker, Timothy Simcoe

NBER Working Paper No. 24040
Issued in November 2017, Revised in July 2019
NBER Program(s):The Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Program

We match archival data from the Uniform Code Council to establishments in the Longitudinal Business Database and Economic Census to study the diffusion and impacts of the Universal Product Code (UPC). We find evidence of network effects in the diffusion process. Matched-sample difference-in-difference estimates show that firm size and trademark registrations increase following UPC adoption by manufacturers. Industry-level import penetration also increases with domestic UPC adoption. Our findings suggest that barcodes, scanning, and related technologies helped stimulate variety-enhancing product innovation and encourage the growth of international retail supply chains.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24040

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