Professor Ufuk Akcigit, PhD

Professor Ufuk Akcigit, PhD
Current Position

since 1/20

Head of the Research Group The Economic Gap between East and West Germany

Research Professor

Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH) – Member of the Leibniz Association

since 8/19

Professor of Economics

University of Chicago

Research Interests

  • macroeconomics
  • economic growth
  • firm dynamics
  • innovation
  • entrepreneurship

Ufuk Akcigit, winner of the Max-Planck-Humboldt Research Award, joined the institute as a Research Professor in January 2020. His research focuses on macroeconomics, economic growth, firm dynamics, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Ufuk Akcigit holds the position of Professor of Economics at University of Chicago. He received his PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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Professor Ufuk Akcigit, PhD
Professor Ufuk Akcigit, PhD
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Ten Facts on Declining Business Dynamism and Lessons from Endogenous Growth Theory

Ufuk Akcigit Sina T. Ates

in: American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, forthcoming


In this paper, we review the literature on declining business dynamism and its implications in the United States and propose a unifying theory to analyze the symptoms and the potential causes of this decline. We first highlight 10 pronounced stylized facts related to declining business dynamism documented in the literature and discuss some of the existing attempts to explain them. We then describe a theoretical framework of endogenous markups, innovation, and competition that can potentially speak to all of these facts jointly. We next explore some theoretical predictions of this framework, which are shaped by two interacting forces: a composition effect that determines the market concentration and an incentive effect that determines how firms respond to a given concentration in the economy. The results highlight that a decline in knowledge diffusion between frontier and laggard firms could be a significant driver of empirical trends observed in the data. This study emphasizes the potential of growth theory for the analysis of factors behind declining business dynamism and the need for further investigation in this direction.

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Lack of Selection and Limits to Delegation: Firm Dynamics in Developing Countries

Ufuk Akcigit Harun Alp Michael Peters

in: American Economic Review, No. 1, 2021


Delegating managerial tasks is essential for firm growth. Most firms in developing countries, however, do not hire outside managers but instead rely on family members. In this paper, we ask if this lack of managerial delegation can explain why firms in poor countries are small and whether it has important aggregate consequences. We construct a model of firm growth where entrepreneurs have a fixed time endowment to run their daily operations. As firms grow large, the need to hire outside managers increases. Firms’ willingness to expand therefore depends on the ease with which delegation can take place. We calibrate the model to plant-level data from the U.S. and India. We identify the key parameters of our theory by targeting the experimental evidence on the effect of managerial practices on firm performance from Bloom et al. (2013). We find that inefficiencies in the delegation environment account for 11% of the income per capita difference between the U.S. and India. They also contribute to the small size of Indian producers, but would cause substantially more harm for U.S. firms. The reason is that U.S. firms are larger on average and managerial delegation is especially valuable for large firms, thus making delegation efficiency and other factors affecting firm growth complements.

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History, Microdata, and Endogenous Growth

Ufuk Akcigit Tom Nicholas

in: Annual Review of Economics, 2019


The study of economic growth is concerned with long-run changes, and therefore, historical data should be especially influential in informing the development of new theories. In this review, we draw on the recent literature to highlight areas in which study of history has played a particularly prominent role in improving our understanding of growth dynamics. Research at the intersection of historical data, theory, and empirics has the potential to reframe how we think about economic growth in much the same way that historical perspectives helped to shape the first generation of endogenous growth theories.

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Working Papers

Connecting to Power: Political Connections, Innovation, and Firm Dynamics

Ufuk Akcigit Salomé Baslandze Francesca Lotti

in: NBER Working Paper, No. 25136, 2018


How do political connections affect firm dynamics, innovation, and creative destruction? To answer this question, we build a firm dynamics model, where we allow firms to invest in innovation and/or political connection to advance their productivity and to overcome certain market frictions. Our model generates a number of theoretical testable predictions and highlights a new interaction between static gains and dynamic losses from rent-seeking in aggregate productivity. We test the predictions of our model using a brand-new dataset on Italian firms and their workers, spanning the period from 1993 to 2014, where we merge: (i) firm-level balance sheet data; (ii) social security data on the universe of workers; (iii) patent data from the European Patent Office; (iv) the national registry of local politicians; and (v) detailed data on local elections in Italy. We find that firm-level political connections are widespread, especially among large firms, and that industries with a larger share of politically connected firms feature worse firm dynamics. We identify a leadership paradox: when compared to their competitors, market leaders are much more likely to be politically connected, but much less likely to innovate. In addition, political connections relate to a higher rate of survival, as well as growth in employment and revenue, but not in productivity – a result that we also confirm using a regression discontinuity design.

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The Social Origins of Inventors

Philippe Aghion Ufuk Akcigit Ari Hyytinen Otto Toivanen

in: NBER Working Paper, No. 24110, 2017


In this paper we merge three datasets - individual income data, patenting data, and IQ data - to analyze the determinants of an individual's probability of inventing. We find that: (i) parental income matters even after controlling for other background variables and for IQ, yet the estimated impact of parental income is greatly diminished once parental education and the individual's IQ are controlled for; (ii) IQ has both a direct effect on the probability of inventing an indirect impact through education. The effect of IQ is larger for inventors than for medical doctors or lawyers. The impact of IQ is robust to controlling for unobserved family characteristics by focusing on potential inventors with brothers close in age. We also provide evidence on the importance of social family interactions, by looking at biological versus non-biological parents. Finally, we find a positive and significant interaction effect between IQ and father income, which suggests a misallocation of talents to innovation.

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Young, Restless and Creative: Openness to Disruption and Creative Innovations

Daron Acemoglu Ufuk Akcigit Murat Alp Celik

in: NBER Working Paper, No. 19894, 2015


This paper argues that openness to new, unconventional and disruptive ideas has a first-order impact on creative innovations—innovations that break new ground in terms of knowledge creation. After presenting a motivating model focusing on the choice between incremental and radical innovation, and on how managers of different ages and human capital are sorted across different firms with different degrees of openness to disruption, we provide firm-level, patent level and cross-country evidence consistent with this pattern. Our measures of creative innovations proxy for innovation quality (average number of citations per patent) and creativity (fraction of superstar innovators, the likelihood of a very high number of citations, and generality of patents). Our main proxy for openness to disruption is the age of the manager - based on the idea that only companies or societies open to such disruption will allow the young to rise up within the hierarchy. Using this proxy at the firm, patent and country level, we present robust evidence that openness to disruption is associated with more creative innovations, but we also show that once the effect of the sorting of young managers to firms that are more open to disruption is factored in, the (causal) impact of manager age on creative innovations is small.

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