Productivity and Innovation

The economics of density: Evidence from the Berlin Wall

Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt, Stephen Redding, Daniel M. Sturm, Nikolaus Wolf, 20 August 2014

Economic activity is highly unevenly distributed across space. Understanding what drives the agglomeration and dispersion is important for many economic and policy questions. This column describes a theoretical model of internal city structure incorporating agglomeration and dispersion and heterogeneity in local fundamentals. The authors use the division and reunification of Berlin as a natural experiment. Their findings show that both heterogeneity in locational fundamentals and agglomeration forces are important in shaping a city’s internal structure.

The US manufacturing base is surprisingly strong

Theodore H. Moran, Lindsay Oldenski, 9 August 2014

There is indisputable evidence that manufacturing employment as a share of total employment in the US has been declining. This column argues that focusing on employment masks important signs of growth of the manufacturing sector. Using most up-to-date data, the authors reason that the US manufacturing base is growing larger, more productive and competitive. The expansion of operations abroad by US manufacturing multinationals leads to particularly strong increases in economic activity – including creation of greater numbers of high-paying manufacturing jobs – by those same firms in the US domestic economy.

Employee satisfaction and firm value

Alex Edmans, 25 July 2014

Happy workers might well be more productive than unhappy ones, but high worker satisfaction could also be a sign that workers are overpaid or underworked. This column examines the link between worker satisfaction and future stock returns in 14 countries. In most but not all countries, employee satisfaction is associated with higher future stock returns. Abnormal returns to companies with high worker satisfaction are significantly increasing in the flexibility of their countries’ labour markets.

Agglomeration and product innovation in China

Hongyong Zhang, 21 July 2014

The Chinese government has been actively promoting innovation via policies such as R&D subsidies, tax relief, and location policies. Since 1995, central and local governments have established more than 100 clusters in over 60 cities. This column presents new evidence on the effect of the concentration of firms on product innovation (new products) in the manufacturing industries.

Intellectual property and service sector innovation

Masayuki Morikawa, 20 July 2014

Innovation is a key driver of productivity growth, but innovation in the service sector has received relatively little attention. This column shows that the total factor productivity gap between Japanese firms with and without innovations is larger in services than in manufacturing. Whereas the percentage of firms holding patents is much higher in manufacturing than in services, trade secrets are just as important in both sectors. These results suggest that the protection of trade secrets makes an important contribution to productivity growth.

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