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  • Istituto di Economia
  • Seminario

Learning by Necessity: Government Demand, Capacity Constraints, and Productivity Growth

Data From 05.07.2022 orario
End Date To 05.07.2022 orario

Via Cardinale Maffi, 27 , 56127 Italia

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The Institute of Economics will hold a seminar meeting as part of its Seminar Series on Wednesday, July 5, 2022: Ethan Ilzetzki from the London School of Economics will present the paper "Learning by Necessity: Government Demand, Capacity Constraints, and Productivity Growth".



This paper studies how firms adapt to large demand shocks when facing capacity constraints. I show that increases in government purchases raise total factor productivity measured in quantity units (TFPQ) at the production-line level. TFP responds more to demand in plants facing tighter capacity constraints, a phenomenon I call “learning by necessity”. The evidence is based on newly digitized and detailed data on production, productivity, and capacity utilization from several archival sources on US World War II aircraft production. Shifts in military strategy provide an instrument for aircraft demand at the production-line level. I provide suggestive evidence that plants adapted to surging demand by improving production methods, outsourcing, and combating absenteeism. I outline a simple theory of learning by necessity to show why firms at high utilization rates may be more inclined to invest in productivity-enhancing measures. The study speaks to a long historical debate on whether demand factors can affect productivity growth.

The seminar will be held in blended mode. In person participation is possible and available seats are allocated on a first come first served basis. For online participation please use the following link.