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Cross-country differences in productivity: The role of allocation and selection

by Eric Bartelsman, John Haltiwanger, Stefano Scarpetta
American Economic Review ()
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Abstract

This paper investigates the effect of idiosyncratic ( firm-level) policy distortions on aggregate outcomes. Exploiting harmonized firm‑level data for a number of countries, we show that there is substantial and systematic cross‑country variation in the within-industry covariance between size and productivity. We develop a model in which heterogeneous firms face adjustment frictions (overhead labor and quasi-fixed capital) and distortions. The model can be readily calibrated so that variations in the distribution of distortions allow matching the observed cross-country moments. We show that the differences in the distortions that account for the size-productivity covariance imply substantial differences in aggregate performance. (JEL D24, L25, O47)

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