IWH-CompNet Discussion Papers

The IWH-CompNet Discussion Paper series presents research based on productivity data provided by the Competitiveness Research Network (CompNet). The international network has the objective to develop a consistent analytical framework for assessing productivity and competitiveness. The papers are released in order to make the research of CompNet generally available, in preliminary form, to encourage comments and suggestions prior to final publication.

Current Issues


The East-West German Gap in Revenue Productivity: Just a Tale of Output Prices?

Matthias Mertens Steffen Müller

in: IWH-CompNet Discussion Papers, No. 2, 2020


East German manufacturers’ revenue productivity (value-added per worker) is some 8 (25) percent below West German levels, even three decades after German unification. Using firm-product-level data containing information on product quantities and prices, we analyse the role of product specialisation and reject the prominent ‚extended work bench hypothesis‘, stating a specialisation of Eastern firms in the intermediate input production as explanation for these sustained productivity differences. We decompose the East’s revenue productivity disadvantage into Eastern firms selling at lower prices and producing more physical output for given amounts of inputs within ten-digit product industries. This suggests that Eastern firms specialise vertically in simpler product varieties generating less consumer value but being manufactured with less or cheaper inputs. Vertical specialisation, however, does not explain the productivity gap as Eastern firms are physically less productive for given product prices, implying a genuine physical productivity disadvantage of Eastern compared to Western firms

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Labour Market Power and Between-Firm Wage (In)Equality

Matthias Mertens

in: IWH-CompNet Discussion Papers, No. 1, 2020


This study investigates how labour market power shapes between-firm wage differences using German manufacturing sector data from 1995 to 2016. Over time, firm- and employee-side labour market power, defined as the difference between wages and marginal revenue products of labour (MRPL), increasingly moderated rising between-firm wage inequality. This is because small, low-wage, low-MRPL firms possess no labour market power and pay wages equal to or even above their MRPL, whereas large, high-wage, high-MRPL firms possess high labour market power and pay wages below their MRPL. These wage-MRPL differences grow over time and compress the firm wage distribution compared to the counterfactual competitive labour market scenario. Particularly for the largest, highest-paying, and highest-MRPL firms, wage-MRPL differences strongly increase over time. This allows these firms to generate increasingly large labour market rents while being active on competitive product markets, providing novel insights on why such “superstar firms” are profitable and successful.

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Trade, Misallocation, and Capital Market Integration

Laszlo Tetenyi

in: IWH-CompNet Discussion Papers, No. 8, 2019


I study how cross-country capital market integration affects the gains from trade in a model with financial frictions and heterogeneous, forward-looking firms. The model predicts that misallocation among exporters increases as trade barriers fall, even as misallocation decreases in the aggregate. The reason is that financially constrained productive exporters increase their production only marginally, while unproductive exporters survive for longer and increase their size. Allowing capital inflows magnifies misallocation, because unproductive firms expand even more, leading to a decline in aggregate productivity. Nevertheless, under integrated capital markets, access to cheaper capital dominates the adverse effect on productivity, leading to higher output, consumption and welfare than under closed capital markets. Applied to the period of European integration between 1992 and 2008, I find that underdeveloped sectors experiencing higher export exposure had more misallocation of capital and a higher share of unproductive firms, thus the data is consistent with the model’s predictions. A key implication of the model is that TFP is a poor proxy for consumption growth after trade liberalisation.

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Private Debt, Public Debt, and Capital Misallocation

Behzod Alimov

in: IWH-CompNet Discussion Papers, No. 7, 2019


Does finance facilitate efficient allocation of resources? Our aim in this paper is to find out whether increases in private and public indebtedness affect capital misallocation, which is measured as the dispersion in the return to capital across firms in different industries. For this, we use a novel dataset containing industrylevel data for 18 European countries and control for different macroeconomic indicators as potential determinants of capital misallocation. We exploit the within-country variation across industries in such indicators as external finance dependence, technological intensity, credit constraints and competitive structure, and find that private debt accumulation disproportionately increases capital misallocation in industries with higher financial dependence, higher R&D intensity, a larger share of credit-constrained firms and a lower level of competition. On the other hand, we fail to find any significant and robust effect of public debt on capital misallocation within our country-sector pairs. We believe the distortionary effects of private debt found in our analysis needs a deeper theoretical investigation.

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Total Factor Productivity and the Terms of Trade

Jan Teresinski

in: IWH-CompNet Discussion Papers, No. 6, 2019


In this paper we analyse how the terms of trade (TOT) – the ratio of export prices to import prices – affect total factor productivity (TFP). We provide empirical macroeconomic evidence for the European Union countries based on the times series SVAR analysis and microeconomic evidence based on industry level data from the Competitiveness Research Network (CompNet) database which shows that the terms of trade improvements are associated with a slowdown in the total factor productivity growth. Next, we build a theoretical model which combines open economy framework with the endogenous growth theory. In the model the terms of trade improvements increase demand for labour employed in exportable goods production at the expense of technology production (research and development – R&D) which leads to a shift of resources from knowledge development towards physical exportable goods. This reallocation has a negative impact on the TFP growth. Under a plausible calibration the model is able to replicate the observed empirical pattern.

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