Emek Basker

US Census Bureau
Center for Economic Studies
4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233-9100

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Institutional Affiliation: U.S. Census Bureau

NBER Working Papers and Publications

May 2020Comment on The Recent Evolution of Physical Retail Markets: Online Retailing, Big Box Stores, and the Rise of Restaurants
in The Role of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Economic Growth, Aaron Chatterji, Josh Lerner, Scott Stern, and Michael J. Andrews, editors
In this comment, I discuss the Lafontaine and Sivadasan paper and provide some background on measurement: how industry codes are assigned by the US Census Bureau, major development in the evolution of the retail sector, and the uneven effects of e-commerce on retail and consumer-facing service industries.
November 2017Upstream, Downstream: Diffusion and Impacts of the Universal Product Code
with Timothy Simcoe: w24040
We study the adoption, diffusion, and impacts of the Universal Product Code (UPC) using matched archival and administrative data. 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.
February 2012Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector
Barcodes and barcode scanners transformed the grocery industry in the 1970s. I use store-level data from the 1972, 1977, and 1982 Census of Retail Trade, matched to data on store scanner installations, to estimate scanners' effect on labor productivity. I find that early scanners increased a store's labor productivity, on average, by approximately 4.5 percent in the first few years. The effect was larger in stores carrying more packaged products, consistent with the presence of network externalities. Short-run gains were small relative to fixed costs, suggesting that the impediment to widespread adoption of the new technology was profitability, not coordination problems.

Published: Emek Basker, 2012. "Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 1-27, July. citation courtesy of

January 2012Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector
in Standards, Patents and Innovations, Timothy Simcoe, Ajay K. Agrawal, and Stuart Graham, organizers
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