Total Factor Productivity Differences: Appropriate Technology vs. Efficiency
40 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2007
Recent development and growth accounting studies have established that total factor productivity is an important source of cross-country differences in income levels and growth rates. This paper makes two contributions. First, it examines the sensitivity of the development accounting results to the Cobb-Douglas specification of the production function. Second, within the Cobb-Douglas framework, it weighs evidence of the two alternative explanations of total factor productivity differences: the inefficiency view and the appropriate technology view. To accomplish these tasks, the world production frontier is estimated using a nonparametric deterministic approach known as data envelopment analysis. I find that the fraction of income differences explained by physical and human capital increases from 32% to 55% when departing from the Cobb-Douglas assumption. There is also evidence consistent with the appropriate technology view; countries with an inadequate mix of inputs are unable to access the most productive technologies. Moreover, the world technology frontier appears to be shifting out faster at input combinations close to that of the R&D leader. However, inefficiency appears to be the main explanation for low incomes throughout the world; it explains 43% of output variation in 1995, and its importance has increased over time.
Keywords: TFP, development accounting, efficiency, production frontier
JEL Classification: O11,O14,O3,O4
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