Econometrica: Nov 2020, Volume 88, Issue 6

Why is Productivity Correlated with Competition?
p. 2415-2444

Matthew Backus

The correlation between productivity and competition is an oft observed but incompletely understood result. Some suggest that there is a treatment effect of competition on measured productivity, for example, through a reduction of managerial slack. Others argue that greater competition makes unproductive establishments exit by reallocating demand to their productive rivals, raising observed average productivity via selection. I study the ready‐mix concrete industry and offer three perspectives on this ambivalence. First, using a standard decomposition approach, I look for evidence of greater reallocation of demand to productive plants in more competitive markets. Second, I model the establishment exit decision and construct a semiparametric selection correction to quantify the empirical significance of treatment and selection. Finally, I use a grouped instrumental variable quantile regression to test the distributional predictions of the selection hypothesis. I find no evidence for greater selection or reallocation in more competitive markets; instead, all three results suggest that measured productivity responds directly to competition. Potential channels include specialization and managerial inputs.

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