Structural Change and Productivity

The department of structural change and productivity analyses dynamics of structural change driven, for instance, by decarbonization or technological progress. Structural change causes prosperity and demise of regions, industries, and firms, and we use microeconometric methods to empirically assess these effects. The department coordinates the Competitiveness Research Network (CompNet), which is a hub for research and policy analysis on competitiveness and productivity.

Our focus is on productivity, business dynamism, and labour market outcomes such as employment and wages. We devote special attention to the role of market power on product and labour markets. Together with the winner of the Max Planck-Humboldt Research Award of 2019, Professor Ufuk Akcigit (Chicago), the department investigates the causes of the economic differences between East and West Germany. The Research Clusters "Institutions and Social Norms" and "Productivity and Innovation" build the framework for our research agenda and the corresponding policy advice.

Your contact

Professor Dr Steffen Müller
Professor Dr Steffen Müller
Leiter - Department Structural Change and Productivity
Send Message +49 345 7753-708 Personal page

Refereed Publications

Selected Publications


Can Mentoring Alleviate Family Disadvantage in Adolescence? A Field Experiment to Improve Labor-Market Prospects

Sven Resnjanskij Jens Ruhose Simon Wiederhold Ludger Woessmann Katharina Wedel

in: Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming


We study a mentoring program that aims to improve the labor-market prospects of school-attending adolescents from disadvantaged families by offering them a university-student mentor. Our RCT investigates program effectiveness on three outcome dimensions that are highly predictive of later labor-market success: math grades, patience/social skills, and labor-market orientation. For low-SES adolescents, the mentoring increases a combined index of the outcomes by over half a standard deviation after one year, with significant increases in each dimension. Part of the treatment effect is mediated by establishing mentors as attachment figures who provide guidance for the future. Effects on grades and labor-market orientation, but not on patience/social skills, persist three years after program start. By that time, the mentoring also improves early realizations of school-to-work transitions for low-SES adolescents. The mentoring is not effective for higher-SES adolescents. The results show that substituting lacking family support by other adults can help disadvantaged children at adolescent age.

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Industry Mix, Local Labor Markets, and the Incidence of Trade Shocks

Steffen Müller Jens Stegmaier Moises Yi

in: Journal of Labor Economics, forthcoming


We analyze how skill transferability and the local industry mix affect the adjustment costs of workers hit by a trade shock. Using German administrative data and novel measures of economic distance we construct an index of labor market absorptiveness that captures the degree to which workers from a particular industry are able to reallocate into other jobs. Among manufacturing workers, we find that the earnings loss associated with increased import exposure is much higher for those who live in the least absorptive regions. We conclude that the local industry composition plays an important role in the adjustment processes of workers.

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European Firm Concentration and Aggregate Productivity

Tommaso Bighelli Filippo di Mauro Marc Melitz Matthias Mertens

in: Journal of the European Economic Association, No. 2, 2023


This paper derives a European Herfindahl–Hirschman concentration index from 15 micro-aggregated country datasets. In the last decade, European concentration rose due to a reallocation of economic activity toward large and concentrated industries. Over the same period, productivity gains from an increasing allocative efficiency of the European market accounted for 50% of European productivity growth while markups stayed constant. Using country-industry variation, we show that changes in concentration are positively associated with changes in productivity and allocative efficiency. This holds across most sectors and countries and supports the notion that rising concentration in Europe reflects a more efficient market environment rather than weak competition and rising market power.

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Immigration and Entrepreneurship in the United States

Pierre Azoulay Benjamin Jones J. Daniel Kim Javier Miranda

in: American Economic Review: Insights, No. 1, 2022


Immigration can expand labor supply and create greater competition for native-born workers. But immigrants may also start new firms, expanding labor demand. This paper uses U.S. administrative data and other data resources to study the role of immigrants in entrepreneurship. We ask how often immigrants start companies, how many jobs these firms create, and how these firms compare with those founded by U.S.-born individuals. A simple model provides a measurement framework for addressing the dual roles of immigrants as founders and workers. The findings suggest that immigrants act more as "job creators" than "job takers" and that non-U.S. born founders play outsized roles in U.S. high-growth entrepreneurship

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The Place-based Effects of Police Stations on Crime: Evidence from Station Closures

Sebastian Blesse André Diegmann

in: Journal of Public Economics, March 2022


Many countries consolidate their police forces by closing down local police stations. Police stations represent an important and visible aspect of the organization of police forces. We provide novel evidence on the effect of centralizing police offices through the closure of local police stations on crime outcomes. Combining matching with a difference-in-differences specification, we find an increase in reported car theft and burglary in residential properties. Our results are consistent with a negative shift in perceived detection risks and are driven by heterogeneous station characteristics. We can rule out alternative explanations such as incapacitation, crime displacement, and changes in police employment or strategies at the regional level. We argue that criminals are less deterred due to a lower visibility of the local police.

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Working Papers


Declining Business Dynamism in Europe: The Role of Shocks, Market Power, and Technology

Filippo Biondi Sergio Inferrera Matthias Mertens Javier Miranda

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 19, 2023


We study the changing patterns of business dynamism in Europe after 2000 using novel micro-aggregated data that we collect for 19 European countries. In all of them, we document a decline in job reallocation rates that concerns most economic sectors. This is mainly driven by dynamics within sectors, size classes, and age classes rather than by compositional changes. Large and mature firms show the strongest decline in job reallocation rates. Simultaneously, the shares of employment and sales of young firms decline. Consistent with US evidence, firms’ employment changes have become less responsive to productivity. However, the dispersion of firms’ productivity shocks has decreased too. To enhance our understanding of these patterns, we derive a firm-level framework that relates changes in firms’ productivity, market power, and technology to job reallocation and firms’ responsiveness.

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Safety Net or Helping Hand? The Effect of Job Search Assistance and Compensation on Displaced Workers

Daniel Fackler Jens Stegmaier Richard Upward

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 18, 2023


We provide the first systematic evidence on the effectiveness of a contested policy in Germany to help displaced workers. So-called “transfer companies” (<i>Transfergesellschaften</i>) employ displaced workers for a fixed period, during which time workers are provided with job-search assistance and are paid a wage which is a substantial fraction of their pre-displacement wage. Using rich and accurate data on workers’ employment patterns before and after displacement, we compare the earnings and employment outcomes of displaced workers who entered transfer companies with those that did not. Workers can choose whether or not to accept a position in a transfer company, and therefore we use the availability of a transfer company at the establishment level as an IV in a model of one-sided compliance. Using an event study, we find that workers who enter a transfer company have significantly worse post-displacement outcomes, but we show that this is likely to be the result of negative selection: workers who lack good outside opportunities are more likely to choose to enter the transfer company. In contrast, ITT and IV estimates indicate that the use of a transfer company has a positive and significant effect on employment rates five years after job loss, but no significant effect on earnings. In addition, the transfer company provides significant additional compensation to displaced workers in the first 12 months after job loss.

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Committing to Grow: Privatizations and Firm Dynamics in East Germany

Ufuk Akcigit Harun Alp André Diegmann Nicolas Serrano-Velarde

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 17, 2023


This paper investigates a unique policy designed to maintain employment during the privatization of East German firms after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The policy required new owners of the firms to commit to employment targets, with penalties for non-compliance. Using a dynamic model, we highlight three channels through which employment targets impact firms: distorted employment decisions, increased productivity, and higher exit rates. Our empirical analysis, using a novel dataset and instrumental variable approach, confirms these findings. We estimate a 22% points higher annual employment growth rate, a 14% points higher annual productivity growth, and a 3.6% points higher probability of exit for firms with binding employment targets. Our calibrated model further demonstrates that without these targets, aggregate employment would have been 15% lower after 10 years. Additionally, an alternative policy of productivity investment subsidies proved costly and less effective in the short term.

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Why Is the Roy-Borjas Model Unable to Predict International Migrant Selection on Education? Evidence from Urban and Rural Mexico

Stefan Leopold Jens Ruhose Simon Wiederhold

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 16, 2023


The Roy-Borjas model predicts that international migrants are less educated than nonmigrants because the returns to education are generally higher in developing (migrant-sending) than in developed (migrant-receiving) countries. However, empirical evidence often shows the opposite. Using the case of Mexico-U.S. migration, we show that this inconsistency between predictions and empirical evidence can be resolved when the human capital of migrants is assessed using a two-dimensional measure of occupational skills rather than by educational attainment. Thus, focusing on a single skill dimension when investigating migrant selection can lead to misleading conclusions about the underlying economic incentives and behavioral models of migration.

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Do Role Models Matter in Large Classes? New Evidence on Gender Match Effects in Higher Education

Stephan Maurer Guido Schwerdt Simon Wiederhold

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 14, 2023


It is well established that female students perform better when taught by female professors. However, little is known about the mechanisms explaining these gender match effects. Using administrative records from a German public university, which cover all programs and courses between 2006 and 2018, we show that gender match effects are sizable in smaller classes, but are absent in larger classes. These results suggest that direct and frequent interactions between students and professors are crucial for gender match effects to emerge. In contrast, the mere fact that one’s professor is female is not sufficient to increase performance of female students.

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