Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector

American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Forthcoming

49 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2011 Last revised: 3 Dec 2011

See all articles by Emek Basker

Emek Basker

U.S. Census Bureau - Center for Economic Studies; University of Missouri - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 16, 2011

Abstract

Barcode scanners were introduced in the 1970s as a way to reduce labor costs in stores, particularly at checkout. This paper is the first to estimate their effect on productivity. 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, with a larger effect in stores carrying more packaged products likely to bear barcodes. Setup costs significantly offset the short-run productivity effect.

Keywords: Barcode scanners, Supermarkets, Technology, Productivity

JEL Classification: L81, D22, O33

Suggested Citation

Basker, Emek, Raising the Barcode Scanner: Technology and Productivity in the Retail Sector (November 16, 2011). American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1754469 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1754469

Emek Basker (Contact Author)

U.S. Census Bureau - Center for Economic Studies ( email )

4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233-9100
United States

University of Missouri - Department of Economics ( email )

118 Professional Building
Columbia, MO 65211
United States

HOME PAGE: http://emekbasker.org

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
163
rank
122,906
Abstract Views
881
PlumX Metrics