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The Effect Of Technology Use On Productivity Growth

By Robert H Mcguckin, Mary L Streitwieser and Mark E Doms


This paper examines the relationship between the use of advanced technologies and productivity and productivity growth rates. We use data from the 1993 and 1988 Survey of Manufacturing Technology (SMT) to examine the use of advanced (computer based) technologies at two different points in time. We are also able to combine the survey data with the Longitudinal Research Database (LRD) to examine the relationships between plant performance, plant characteristics, and the use of advanced technologies. In addition, a subset of these plants were surveyed in both years, enabling us to directly associate changes in technology use with changes in plant productivity performance. The main findings of the study are as follows. First, diffusion is not the same across the surveyed technologies. Second, the adoption process is not smooth: plants added and dropped technologies over the six-year interval 1988-93. In fact, the average plant showed a gross change of roughly four technologies in achieving an average net increase of less than one new technology. In this regard, technology appears to be an experience good: plants experiment with particular technologies before deciding to add additional units or drop the technology entirely. We find that establishments that use advanced technologies exhibit higher productivity. This relationship is observed in both 1988 and 1993 even after accounting for other important factors associated with productivity: size, age, capital intensity, labor skill mix, and other controls for plant characteristics such as industry and region. In addition, the relationship between productivity and advanced technology use is observed both in the extent of technologies used and the intensity of their use. Finally, while there is some evidence that the use of advanced technologies is positively related to improved productivity performance, the data suggest that the dominant explanation for the observed cross-section relationship is that good performers are more likely to use advanced technologies than poorly performing operations.CES,economic,research,micro,data,microdata,chief,economist

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