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


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


Regional Capital Flows and Economic Regimes: Evidence from China

Liuchun Deng Boqun Wang

in: Economics Letters, April 2016


Using provincial data from China, this paper examines the pattern of capital flows in relation to the transition of economic regimes. We show that fast-growing provinces experienced less capital inflows before the large-scale market reform, contrary to the prediction of the neoclassical growth theory. As China transitioned from the central-planning economy to the market economy, the negative correlation between productivity growth and capital inflows became much less pronounced. From a regional perspective, this finding suggests domestic institutional factors play an important role in shaping the pattern of capital flows.

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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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Parent Universities and the Location of Academic Startups

S. Heblich Viktor Slavtchev

in: Small Business Economics, No. 1, 2014


Academic startups are thought to locate in their parent university’s home region because geographic proximity to a university facilitates access to academic knowledge and resources. In this paper we analyze the importance of a different channel, namely social ties between academic entrepreneurs and university researchers, for the access to academic knowledge and resources, and therefore for the location of the startups. We employ unique data on academic startups from regions with more than one university and find that only the parent university influences academic entrepreneurs’ decisions to stay in the region while other universities in the same region play no role. Our findings suggest that geographic proximity to a university may not per se guarantee access to knowledge and resources; social contacts are additionally required. The importance of social ties implies that academic knowledge and resources are not necessarily local public goods. This holds implications for universities’ role in stimulating regional development.

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Proximity and the Transfer of Academic Knowledge: Evidence from the Spatial Pattern of Industry Collaborations of East German Professors

Viktor Slavtchev

in: Regional Studies, No. 5, 2013


Proximity and the transfer of academic knowledge: evidence from the spatial pattern of industry collaborations of East German professors, Regional Studies. Universities can stimulate local economic development, particularly due to collaboration with local industry. Against this background, this study analyses when these interactions are local. Previous research suggests that university–industry linkages are mainly local because of tacit knowledge and the importance of physical proximity. This study provides additional evidence that the spatial pattern of university–industry linkages is a result of a complex matching process of appropriate partners. The results indicate that actors' individual and relational characteristics, institutional factors, and the particular type of knowledge play a role in collaboration. Hence, university–industry collaborations might not be local.

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The Internationalization of Science and Its Influence on Academic Entrepreneurship

S. Krabel D. S. Siegel Viktor Slavtchev

in: Journal of Technology Transfer, No. 2, 2012


We examine whether scientists employed in foreign countries and foreign-educated native researchers are more “entrepreneurial” than their “domestic” counterparts. We conjecture that foreign-born and foreign-educated scientists possess broader scientific skills and social capital, which increases their likelihood that they will start their own companies. To test this hypothesis we analyze comprehensive data from researchers at the Max Planck Society in Germany. Our findings provide strong support for the conjecture that academic entrepreneurship can be stimulated by facilitating the mobility of scientists across countries.

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Working Papers


Do Larger Firms Have Higher Markups?

Matthias Mertens Bernardo Mottironi

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 1, 2023


Several models posit a positive cross-sectional correlation between markups and firm size, which, among others, characterizes misallocation, factor shares, and gains from trade. Yet, taking labor market power into account in markup estimation, we show that larger firms have lower markups. This correlation turns positive only after conditioning on wage markdowns, suggesting interactions between product and labor market power. Our findings are robust to common criticism (e.g., price bias) and hold across 19 European countries. We discuss the resulting implications and highlight studying input and output market power within an integrated framework as an important next step for future research.

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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


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

Matthias Mertens

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 13, 2020


I study how labour market power affects firm wage differences using German manufacturing sector firm-level data (1995-2016). In past decades, labour market power increasingly moderated rising between-firm wage inequality. This is because high-paying firms possess high and increasing labour market power and pay wages below competitive levels, whereas low-wage firms pay competitive wages. Over time, large, high-wage, high-productivity firms generate increasingly large labour market rents while selling on competitive product markets. This provides novel insights on why such “superstar firms” are profitable and successful. Using micro-aggregated data covering most economic sectors, I validate my results for ten other European countries.

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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


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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Import Competition and Firm Productivity: Evidence from German Manufacturing

Richard Bräuer Matthias Mertens Viktor Slavtchev

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 20, 2019


This study analyses empirically the effects of import competition on firm productivity (TFPQ) using administrative firm-level panel data from German manufacturing. We find that only import competition from high-income countries is associated with positive incentives for firms to invest in productivity improvement, whereas import competition from middle- and low-income countries is not. To rationalise these findings, we further look at the characteristics of imports from the two types of countries and the effects on R&D, employment and sales. We provide evidence that imports from high-income countries are relatively capital-intensive and technologically more sophisticated goods, at which German firms tend to be relatively good. Costly investment in productivity appears feasible reaction to such type of competition and we find no evidence for downscaling. Imports from middle- and low-wage countries are relatively labour-intensive and technologically less sophisticated goods, at which German firms tend to generally be at disadvantage. In this case, there are no incentives to invest in innovation and productivity and firms tend to decline in sales and employment.

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