Innovation, Productivity, and Economic Dynamics

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 Innovation

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


European Firm Concentration and Aggregate Productivity

Tommaso Bighelli Filippo di Mauro Marc Melitz Matthias Mertens

in: Journal of the European Economic Association, forthcoming


This paper derives a European Herfindahl–Hirschman concentration index from 15 micro-aggregated country datasets. In the last decade, European concentration rose due to a reallocation of economic activity toward large and concentrated industries. Over the same period, productivity gains from an increasing allocative efficiency of the European market accounted for 50% of European productivity growth while markups stayed constant. Using country-industry variation, we show that changes in concentration are positively associated with changes in productivity and allocative efficiency. This holds across most sectors and countries and supports the notion that rising concentration in Europe reflects a more efficient market environment rather than weak competition and rising market power.

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

Matthias Mertens Steffen Müller

in: Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming


East German manufacturers’ revenue productivity is substantially below West German levels, even three decades after German unification. Using firm-product-level data with product quantities and prices, we analyze the role of product specialization and show that the prominent “extended work bench hypothesis” cannot explain these sustained productivity differences. Eastern firms specialize in simpler product varieties generating less consumer value and being manufactured with less or cheaper inputs. Yet, such specialization cannot explain the productivity gap because Eastern firms are physically less productive for given product prices. Hence, there is a genuine price-adjusted physical productivity disadvantage of Eastern compared to Western firms.

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Immigration and Entrepreneurship in the United States

Pierre Azoulay Benjamin Jones J. Daniel Kim Javier Miranda

in: American Economic Review: Insights, No. 1, 2022


Immigration can expand labor supply and create greater competition for native-born workers. But immigrants may also start new firms, expanding labor demand. This paper uses U.S. administrative data and other data resources to study the role of immigrants in entrepreneurship. We ask how often immigrants start companies, how many jobs these firms create, and how these firms compare with those founded by U.S.-born individuals. A simple model provides a measurement framework for addressing the dual roles of immigrants as founders and workers. The findings suggest that immigrants act more as "job creators" than "job takers" and that non-U.S. born founders play outsized roles in U.S. high-growth entrepreneurship

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Micro-mechanisms behind Declining Labor Shares: Rising Market Power and Changing Modes of Production

Matthias Mertens

in: International Journal of Industrial Organization, March 2022


I derive a micro-founded framework showing how rising firm market power on product and labor markets and falling aggregate labor output elasticities provide three competing explanations for falling labor shares. I apply my framework to 20 years of German manufacturing sector micro data containing firm-specific price information to study these three distinct drivers of declining labor shares. I document a severe increase in firms’ labor market power, whereas firms’ product market power stayed comparably low. Changes in firm market power and a falling aggregate labor output elasticity each account for one half of the decline in labor's share.

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Changing Business Dynamism and Productivity: Shocks versus Responsiveness

Ryan A. Decker John Haltiwanger Ron S. Jarmin Javier Miranda

in: American Economic Review, No. 12, 2020


The pace of job reallocation has declined in the United States in recent decades. We draw insight from canonical models of business dynamics in which reallocation can decline due to (i) lower dispersion of idiosyncratic shocks faced by businesses, or (ii) weaker marginal responsiveness of businesses to shocks. We show that shock dispersion has actually risen, while the responsiveness of business-level employment to productivity has weakened. Moreover, declining responsiveness can account for a significant fraction of the decline in the pace of job reallocation, and we find suggestive evidence this has been a drag on aggregate productivity.

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Working Papers


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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The (Heterogenous) Economic Effects of Private Equity Buyouts

Steven J. Davis John Haltiwanger Kyle Handley Josh Lerner Ben Lipsius Javier Miranda

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 10, 2022


The effects of private equity buyouts on employment, productivity, and job reallocation vary tremendously with macroeconomic and credit conditions, across private equity groups, and by type of buyout. We reach this conclusion by examining the most extensive database of U.S. buyouts ever compiled, encompassing thousands of buyout targets from 1980 to 2013 and millions of control firms. Employment shrinks 13% over two years after buyouts of publicly listed firms – on average, and relative to control firms – but expands 13% after buyouts of privately held firms. Post-buyout productivity gains at target firms are large on average and much larger yet for deals executed amidst tight credit conditions. A post-buyout tightening of credit conditions or slowing of GDP growth curtails employment growth and intra-firm job reallocation at target firms. We also show that buyout effects differ across the private equity groups that sponsor buyouts, and these differences persist over time at the group level. Rapid upscaling in deal flow at the group level brings lower employment growth at target firms.

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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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