What Happened to the Knowledge Economy? ICT, Intangible Investment, and Britain's Productivity Record Revisited
31 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2009
Despite the apparent importance of the “knowledge economy,” U.K. macroeconomic performance appears unaffected: investment rates are flat, and productivity has slowed. We investigate whether measurement issues might account for this puzzle. The standard National Accounts treatment of most spending on “knowledge” or “intangible” assets is as intermediate consumption. Thus they do not count as either GDP or investment. We ask how treating such spending as investment affects some key macro variables, namely, market sector gross value added (MGVA), business investment, capital and labor shares, growth in labor and total factor productivity (TFP), and capital deepening. We find: (a) MGVA was understated by about 6 percent in 1970 and 13 percent in 2004; (b) instead of the business investment/MGVA ratio falling since 1970 it has been rising; (c) instead of the labor share being flat since 1970 it has been falling; (d) growth in labor productivity and capital deepening has been understated and growth in TFP overstated; and (e) TFP growth has not slowed since 1990 but has been accelerating.
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