Elasticities, markups and technical progress: evidence from a state-space approach

Staff working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 29 August 2006

Working Paper No. 300
By Colin Ellis

Conventional techniques for estimating the elasticity of substitution between capital and labour in the production process typically focus on factor-demand equations. An implicit assumption in this approach is normally that the markup is stationary. But that may not be true. This paper considers a new approach that models the markup as an unobserved variable. Using the factor-demand equations for capital and labour, technical progress can also be estimated as a stochastic process, rather than just imposing a time trend. The resulting estimates of the whole-economy markup for the UK economy suggest that it has fallen over the past 30 years, and this result appears to withstand a variety of robustness checks. The estimated elasticity is somewhat lower than most previous estimates. This implies that conventional techniques may be misleading.

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