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US-EU productivity differential at the industry level: the role of embodied technology progress


The last decade has witnessed the resurgence of United States (US) productivity and the contemporaneous decline of that of the European Union (EU). This productivity gap means that Europe is falling behind the US and it may therefore be difficult to maintain the European standard of living. The current research explores the causes of the aforementioned divergence by adopting a multi-sector framework. It is submitted that a multi-sector framework offers a preferential model for identification of sources of productivity slowdown as compared with a one-sector model. By departing from the standard one-sector model it is possible to identify additional sources of productivity slowdown, for example (1) the distance of the European investment goods sectors from the technological frontier, (2) the slower adoption process of new investment goods by the European consumption goods sectors.

These two alternative sources of productivity differential are estimated by applying a dynamic factor model to US and EU sectoral data (GGDC data set). With this econometric technique, each variable is decomposed into components that are industry-specific but common across nations, and components that are nation-specific but common across industries. By estimating sector- or national-specific dynamic factors it is possible to: (1) determine the European sectors for which the country-component accounts for more than the sectoral one in order to explain productivity dynamics; (2) estimate the correlation of the variance explained by the sector-component with other explanatory variables; (3) identify the heterogeneous responses of EU and the US to common shocks.

This project provides valuable input into the debate about realizing the Lisbon Agenda. According to the recent Sapir report, both innovation and reforms are central triggers for the European growth process. The proposed empirical analysis and the multi-sector framework will contribute to the discussion on this policy debate.

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