Staff Report 162

Industry Evolution and Transition: The Role of Information Capital

Patrick J. Kehoe | Stanford University, University College London, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Andrew Atkeson | Consultant

Published August 1, 1993

In this paper, we build a model of the transition following large-scale economic reforms that predicts both a substantial drop in output and a prolonged pause in physical investment as the initial phase of the optimal transition following the reform. We model reform as a change in policy which induces agents to close existing enterprises using old technologies of production and to open up new enterprises adopting new technologies of production. The central idea of our paper is that it is costly to close old enterprises and open new enterprises because, in doing so, information capital built up about old enterprises is lost and time must pass before information capital about new enterprises can be acquired. Thus, an acceleration of the pace of industry evolution leads in the short run to a net loss of information capital, a drop in productivity, a recession, and a fall in physical investment. We calibrate our model of industry evolution, information capital, and transition to match micro data on industry evolution in the United States and macro data from the United States, Japan, and the former communist countries of Europe. We find that the loss of information capital that accompanies a major acceleration in the pace of industry evolution in an economy leads initially to a decade of recession and a five year pause in physical investment before the benefits of reform are realized.

Download Paper (pdf)