ICT Services and their Prices: What do they tell us about Productivity and Technology?
This paper reassesses the link between ICT prices, technology, and productivity. To understand how the ICT sector could come to the rescue of a whole economy, we extend a multi-sector model due to Oulton (2012) to include ICT services (e.g., cloud services) and use it to calibrate the steady-state contribution of the ICT sector to growth in aggregate U.S. labor productivity. Because ICT technologies diffuse through the economy increasingly via purchases of cloud and data analytic services that are not fully accounted for in the standard narrative on ICT's contribution to economic growth, the ...
Offshore Profit Shifting and Domestic Productivity Measurement
Official statistics display a significant slowdown in U.S. aggregate productivity growth that begins in 2004. We show how offshore profit shifting by U.S. multinational enterprises affects GDP and, thus, productivity measurement. Under international statistical guidelines, profit shifting causes part of U.S. production generated by multinationals to be excluded from official measures of U.S. production. Profit shifting has increased significantly since the mid-1990s, resulting in lower measures of U.S. aggregate productivity growth. We construct an alternative measure of value added that ...
Lights, camera,...income! Estimating poverty using national accounts, survey means, and lights
In this paper, we try to understand whether measures of GDP per capita taken from national accounts or measures of mean income or consumption derived from household surveys better proxy for true income per capita. We propose a data-driven method to assess the relative quality of GDP per capita versus survey means by comparing the evolution of each series to the evolution of satellite-recorded nighttime lights. Our main assumption, which is robust to a variety of specification checks, is that the measurement error in nighttime lights is unrelated to the measurement errors in either national ...
Accounting for Growth in the Age of the Internet The Importance of Output-Saving Technical Change
We extend the conventional Solow growth accounting model to allow innovation to affect consumer welfare directly. Our model is based on Lancaster?s New Approach to Consumer Theory, in which there is a separate ?consumption technology? that transforms the produced goods, measured at production cost, into utility. This technology can shift over time, allowing consumers to make more efficient use of each dollar of income. This is ?output-saving? technical change, in contrast to the Solow TFP ?resource-saving? technical change. One implication of our model is that living standards can rise at a ...
ICT Asset Prices : Marshaling Evidence into New Measures
This paper is a companion to our recent paper, "ICT Prices and ICT Services: What do they tell us about Productivity and Technology?" It provides the sources and methods used to construct national accounts-style price deflators for the major components of ICT investment--communications equipment, computer equipment, and software--that were presented and analyzed in that paper. The ICT equipment measures described herein were also used in Byrne, Fernald, and Reinsdorf (2016). This paper is a companion to our recent paper, "ICT Services and their Prices: What do they tell us about ...
Oil, Equities, and the Zero Lower Bound
From late 2008 to 2017, oil and equity returns were more positively correlated than in other periods. In addition, we show that both oil and equity returns became more responsive to macroeconomic news. We provide empirical evidence and theoretical justification that these changes resulted from nominal interest rates being constrained by the zero lower bound (ZLB). Although the ZLB alters the economic environment in theory, supportive empirical evidence has been lacking. Our paper provides clear evidence of the ZLB altering the economic environment, with implications for the effectiveness of ...
Newer need not be better: evaluating the Penn World Tables and the World Development Indicators using nighttime lights
Nighttime lights data are a measure of economic activity whose measurement error is plausibly independent of the errors of most conventional indicators. Therefore, we can use nighttime lights as an independent benchmark to assess existing measures of economic activity (Pinkovskiy and Sala-i-Martin 2016). We employ this insight to find out which vintages of the Penn World Tables (PWT) and of the World Development Indicators (WDI) better estimate true income per capita. We find that revisions of the PWT do not necessarily dominate their predecessors in terms of explaining nighttime lights (and ...
The Impact of COVID on Potential Output
The level of potential output is likely to be subdued post-COVID relative to its previous estimates. Most clearly, capital input and full-employment labor will both be lower than they previously were. Quantitatively, however, these effects appear relatively modest. In the long run, labor scarring could lead to lower levels of employment, but the slow pre-recession pace of GDP growth is unlikely to be substantially affected.
Aggregate Output Measurements: A Common Trend Approach
We analyze a model for N different measurements of a persistent latent time series when measurement errors are mean-reverting, which implies a common trend among measurements. We study the consequences of overdifferencing, finding potentially large biases in maximum likelihood estimators of the dynamics parameters and reductions in the precision of smoothed estimates of the latent variable, especially for multiperiod objects such as quinquennial growth rates. We also develop an R2 measure of common trend observability that determines the severity of misspecification. Finally, we apply our ...
Expanded GDP for Welfare Measurement in the 21st Century
The information revolution currently underway has changed the economy in ways that are hard to measure using conventional GDP procedures. The information available to consumers has increased dramatically as a result of the Internet and its applications, and new mobile communication devices have greatly increased the speed and reach of its accessibility. An individual now has an unprecedented amount of information on which to base consumption choices, and the “free” nature of the information provided means that the resulting benefits largely bypass GDP and accrue directly to consumers. ...