Market Power, Input Costs, and Technology

The research group deals with the empirical analysis of the dynamics and determinants of economic development. Thereby, we recognize that these are individual heterogeneous firms with their specific capabilities to innovate and to efficiently allocate scarce resources that shape patterns at higher level of aggregation (e.g. cause structural change). While following a micro-level approach we aim at adding to the understanding of the actual mechanisms and dynamics in the development of economies as well as for the development of policy instruments. For instance, one of the current research projects deals with the effect of import competition on the productivity and innovating behaviour of firms as well as on the dynamic in and of industries

The research group works closely together with CompNet.

Research Cluster
Productivity and Institutions

Your contact

Dr Matthias Mertens
Dr Matthias Mertens
Mitglied - Department Structural Change and Productivity
Send Message +49 345 7753-707 Personal page

EXTERNAL FUNDING

10.2022 ‐ 09.2024

MULTIMSPROD/MULTIMSPROD AUT

European Commission

Enhancing the Micro Foundation of the Research Output of National Productivity Board (NPBs). Using CompNet and expanding its Micro Data Infrastructure (MDI).

See project page

Professor Javier Miranda, PhD

09.2016 ‐

The Competitiveness Research Network (CompNet)

Funding institutions: European Central Bank (ECB), European Investment Bank (EIB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Tinbergen Institute, European Commission.

The Competitiveness Research Network (CompNet) provides a forum for high level research and policy analysis in the areas of competitiveness and productivity. Its main activities include the regular updating of its micro-based competitiveness database for European countries, unprecedented in terms of coverage and cross-country comparability.

Professor Reint E. Gropp, PhD

Refereed Publications

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Trade Shocks, Labour Markets and Migration in the First Globalisation

Richard Bräuer Felix Kersting

in: Economic Journal, No. 657, 2024

Abstract

This paper studies the economic and political effects of a large trade shock in agriculture—the grain invasion from the Americas—in Prussia during the first globalisation (1870–913). We show that this shock led to a decline in the employment rate and overall income. However, we do not observe declining per capita income and political polarisation, which we explain by a strong migration response. Our results suggest that the negative and persistent effects of trade shocks we see today are not a universal feature of globalisation, but depend on labour mobility. For our analysis, we digitise data from Prussian industrial and agricultural censuses on the county level and combine them with national trade data at the product level. We exploit the cross-regional variation in cultivated crops within Prussia and instrument with Italian and United States trade data to isolate exogenous variation.

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

Matthias Mertens

in: International Journal of Industrial Organization, December 2023

Abstract

I study how labor market power affects firm wage differences using German manufacturing sector firm-level data (1995-2016). In past decades, labor market power increasingly moderated rising between-firm wage differences. This is because high-paying firms possess high and increasing labor market power and pay wages below competitive levels, whereas low-wage firms pay competitive or even above competitive wages. Over time, large, high-wage, high-productivity firms generate increasingly large labor market rents while charging comparably low product markups. This provides novel insights on why such top firms are profitable and successful. Using micro-aggregated data covering most economic sectors, I validate key results for multiple European countries.

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Import Competition and Firm Productivity: Evidence from German Manufacturing

Richard Bräuer Matthias Mertens Viktor Slavtchev

in: World Economy, No. 8, 2023

Abstract

Abstract We study how different types of import competition affect firm productivity using firm-product data from German manufacturing (2000-2014). Competition from high-income countries causes affected domestic firms to increase their productivity and lower their prices. Oppositely, import competition from low-wage countries does not lead to firm productivity gains. Instead, domestic firms' sales and input usage decline. Our findings confirm the intuition of ladder models that the effect of competition depends on the "closeness" of competitors. They are in line with widespread X-inefficiencies throughout the economy, which firms reduce in response to competition from high-income countries.

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Cross-country Evidence on the Allocation of COVID-19 Government Subsidies and Consequences for Productivity

Tommaso Bighelli Tibor Lalinsky Juuso Vanhala

in: Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, June 2023

Abstract

We study the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and related policy support on productivity. We employ an extensive micro-distributed exercise to access otherwise unavailable individual data on firm performance and government subsidies. Our cross-country evidence for five EU countries shows that the pandemic led to a significant short-term decline in aggregate productivity and the direct support to firms had only a limited positive effect on productivity developments. A thorough comparative analysis of the distribution of employment and overall direct subsidies, considering separately also relative firm-level size of support and the probability of being supported, reveals ambiguous cross-country results related to the firm-level productivity and points to the decisive role of other firm characteristics.

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Marginal Jobs and Job Surplus: A Test of the Efficiency of Separations

Simon Jäger Benjamin Schoefer Josef Zweimüller

in: Review of Economic Studies, No. 3, 2023

Abstract

We present a test of Coasean theories of efficient separations. We study a cohort of jobs from the introduction through the repeal of a large age- and region-specific unemployment benefit extension in Austria. In the treatment group, 18.5% fewer jobs survive the program period. According to the Coasean view, the destroyed marginal jobs had low joint surplus. Hence, after the repeal, the treatment survivors should be more resilient than the ineligible control group survivors. Strikingly, the two groups instead exhibit identical post-repeal separation behavior. We provide, and find suggestive evidence consistent with, an alternative model in which wage rigidity drives the inefficient separation dynamics.

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Working Papers

Wirtschaftliche Folgen des Gaspreisanstiegs für die deutsche Industrie

Matthias Mertens Steffen Müller

in: Sachverständigenrat Wirtschaft, No. 4, 2022

Abstract

Diese Analyse nutzt amtliche Mikrodaten für die deutsche Industrie. Auf Ebene fein untergliederter Produkte werden der Verbrauch an Erdgas und der heimische Produktumsatz mit Daten der Vereinten Nationen zu Exporten und Importen verknüpft. Es zeigt sich, dass die 300 Produkte mit dem höchsten Gasverbrauch innerhalb der deutschen Industrie für knapp 90% des Gasverbrauchs der Industrie stehen, dass bei Gaspreiserhöhungen um das Vierfache gegenüber den Jahren 2015-2017 die Kosten für das durchschnittliche Produkt um 12 Cent pro Euro Umsatz steigen und dass ein Produktionsstopp der Produkte, die sowohl überdurchschnittlich gasintensiv sind als auch überdurchschnittlich leicht durch Importe substituiert werden können, 26% des Gesamtgasverbrauchs der Industrie einspart, aber weniger als 3% des Umsatzes der Industrie kostet.

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Offshoring, Domestic Employment and Production. Evidence from the German International Sourcing Survey

Wolfhard Kaus Markus Zimmermann

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 14, 2022

Abstract

This paper analyses the effect of offshoring (i.e., the relocation of activities previously performed in-house to foreign countries) on various firm outcomes (domestic employment, production, and productivity). It uses data from the International Sourcing Survey (ISS) 2017 for Germany, linked to other firm level data such as business register and ITGS data. First, we find that offshoring is a rare event: In the sample of firms with 50 or more persons employed, only about 3% of manufacturing firms and 1% of business service firms have performed offshoring in the period 2014-2016. Second, difference-in-differences propensity score matching estimates reveal a negative effect of offshoring on domestic employment and production. Most of this negative effect is not because the offshoring firms shrink, but rather because they don’t grow as fast as the non-offshoring firms. We further decompose the underlying employment dynamics by using direct survey evidence on how many jobs the firms destroyed/created due to offshoring. Moreover, we do not find an effect on labour productivity, since the negative effect on domestic employment and production are more or less of the same size. Third, the German data confirm previous findings for Denmark that offshoring is associated with an increase in the share of ‘produced goods imports’, i.e. offshoring firms increase their imports for the same goods they continue to produce domestically. In contrast, it is not the case that offshoring firms increase the share of intermediate goods imports (a commonly used proxy for offshoring), as defined by the BEC Rev. 5 classification.

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The Financial Channel of Wage Rigidity

Benjamin Schoefer

in: Econometrics Laboratory (EML), April 2022

Abstract

I propose a financial channel of wage rigidity. In recessions, rigid average wages squeeze cash flows, forcing firms to cut hiring due to financial constraints. Indeed, empirical cash flows and profits would turn acyclical if wages were only moderately more procyclical. I study this channel in a search and matching model with financial constraints and wage rigidity among incumbent workers (but flexible new hires’ wages). While neither feature generates amplification individually, their interaction can account for much of the empirical labor market fluctuations—breaking the neutrality of incumbents’ wages for hiring, and showing that financial amplification of business cycles requires wage rigidity.

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Intangible Capital and Productivity. Firm-level Evidence from German Manufacturing

Wolfhard Kaus Viktor Slavtchev Markus Zimmermann

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 1, 2020

Abstract

We study the importance of intangible capital (R&D, software, patents) for the measurement of productivity using firm-level panel data from German manufacturing. We first document a number of facts on the evolution of intangible investment over time, and its distribution across firms. Aggregate intangible investment increased over time. However, the distribution of intangible investment, even more so than that of physical investment, is heavily right-skewed, with many firms investing nothing or little, and a few firms having very large intensities. Intangible investment is also lumpy. Firms that invest more intensively in intangibles (per capita or as sales share) also tend to be more productive. In a second step, we estimate production functions with and without intangible capital using recent control function approaches to account for the simultaneity of input choice and unobserved productivity shocks. We find a positive output elasticity for research and development (R&D) and, to a lesser extent, software and patent investment. Moreover, the production function estimates show substantial heterogeneity in the output elasticities across industries and firms. While intangible capital has small effects for firms with low intangible intensity, there are strong positive effects for high-intensity firms. Finally, including intangibles in a gross output production function reduces productivity dispersion (measured by the 90-10 decile range) on average by 3%, in some industries as much as nearly 9%.

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TV and Entrepreneurship

Viktor Slavtchev Michael Wyrwich

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 17, 2017

Abstract

We empirically analyse whether television (TV) can influence entrepreneurial identity and incidence. To identify causal effects, we utilise a quasi-natural experiment setting. During the division of Germany after WWII into West Germany with a free-market economy and the socialistic East Germany with centrally-planned economy, some East German regions had access to West German public TV that – differently from the East German TV – transmitted images, values, attitudes and view of life compatible with the free-market economy principles and supportive of entrepreneurship. We show that during the 40 years of socialistic regime in East Germany entrepreneurship was highly regulated and virtually impossible and that the prevalent formal and informal institutions broke the traditional ties linking entrepreneurship to the characteristics of individuals so that there were hardly any differences in the levels and development of entrepreneurship between East German regions with and without West German TV signal. Using both, regional and individual level data, we show then that, for the period after the Unification in 1990 which made starting an own business in East Germany, possible again, entrepreneurship incidence is higher among the residents of East German regions that had access to West German public TV, indicating that TV can, while transmitting specific images, values, attitudes and view of life, directly impact on the entrepreneurial mindset of individuals. Moreover, we find that young individuals born after 1980 in East German households that had access to West German TV are also more entrepreneurial. These findings point to second-order effects due to inter-personal and inter-generational transmission, a mechanism that can cause persistent differences in the entrepreneurship incidence across (geographically defined) population groups.

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