The Substitution Elasticity, Factor Shares, Long-Run Growth, and the Low-Frequency Panel Model
70 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2014
Date Written: January 1, 2016
The value of the elasticity of substitution between labor and capital (σ) is a “crucial” assumption in understanding the secular decline in the labor share of income and long-run growth. This paper develops and implements a new strategy for estimating this crucial parameter by combining a low-pass filter with panel data to identify the low-frequency/longrun relations appropriate to production function estimation. Using spectral analysis, we assess the extent to which our choices of the critical periodicity and window defining the low-pass filter are successful in emphasizing long-run variation. The empirical results are based on the comprehensive panel industry dataset constructed by Dale Jorgenson and his research associates. Our preferred estimate of σ is 0.40. We document that standard estimation methods, which do not filter-out transitory variation, generate downwardly biased estimates. As high frequency variation is introduced into the model variables, σ declines by 40% to 70% relative to the benchmark value. Despite correcting for this bias, our preferred estimate is substantially below the Cobb-Douglas assumption of σ = 1, and thus implies that the secular decline in the labor share of income cannot be explained by secular increases in the capital/income ratio or secular decreases in the relative price of investment or capital taxation.
Keywords: substitution elasticity, labor income share, long-run growth, low-pass filter, production function parameters
JEL Classification: E220, E250, O400, C230
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