Technological Intensity of Government Demand and Innovation

Governments purchase everything from airplanes to zucchini. This paper investigates whether the technological intensity of government demand affects corporate R&D activities. In a quality-ladder model of endogenous growth, we show that an increase in the share of government purchases in high-tech industries increases the rewards for innovation, and stimulates private-sector R&D at the aggregate level. We test this prediction using administrative data on federal procurement performed in US states. Both panel fixed effects and instrumental variable estimations provide results in line with the model. Our findings bring public procurement within the realm of the innovation policy debate.

01. August 2012

Authors Viktor Slavtchev Simon Wiederhold

Suggested Reading


Does the Technological Content of Government Demand Matter for Private R&D? Evidence from US States

Viktor Slavtchev Simon Wiederhold

in: American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, No. 2, 2016


Governments purchase everything from airplanes to zucchini. This paper investigates the role of the technological content of government procurement in innovation. In a theoretical model, we first show that a shift in the composition of public purchases toward high-tech products translates into higher economy-wide returns to innovation, leading to an increase in the aggregate level of private R&D. Using unique data on federal procurement in US states and performing panel fixed-effects estimations, we find support for the model's prediction of a positive R&D effect of the technological content of government procurement. Instrumental-variable estimations suggest a causal interpretation of our findings.

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