Productivity, Place, and Plants
Why do cities differ so much in productivity? A long literature has sought out systematic sources, such as inherent productivity advantages, market access, agglomeration forces, or sorting. We document that up to three quarters of the measured regional productivity dispersion is spurious, reflecting the “luck of the draw” of finite counts of idiosyncratically heterogeneous plants that happen to operate in a given location. The patterns are even more pronounced for new plants, hold for alternative productivity measures, and broadly extend to European countries. This large role for individual plants suggests a smaller role for places in driving regional differences.