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Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 06-130
In International Labour Review 146 (1-2): -80
I discuss reasons why manufacturing productivity statistics should be interpreted with caution in light of the recent growth of domestic and foreign outsourcing and offshoring. First, outsourcing and offshoring are poorly measured in U.S. statistics, and poor measurement may impart a significant bias to manufacturing and, where offshoring is involved, aggregate productivity statistics. Second, companies often outsource or offshore work to take advantage of cheap (relative to their output) labor, and such cost savings are counted as productivity gains, even in multifactor productivity calculations. This fact has potentially important implications for the interpretation of productivity statistics. Whether, for instance, productivity growth derives from a better-educated, more efficient U.S. workforce, from investment in capital equipment in U.S. establishments, or from the use of cheap foreign labor affects how productivity gains are distributed among workers and firms in the short term and undoubtedly matters for U.S. industrial competitiveness and living standards in the long term. Although it is impossible to fully assess the impact that mismeasurement and cost savings from outsourcing and offshoring have had on measured productivity growth in manufacturing, I point to several pieces of evidence that suggest it is significant, and I argue that these issues warrant serious attention.
June 2006, Revised September 2006, Revised April 2007
INTERNATIONAL ISSUES; Globalization; Offshoring; Productivity measurement; ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT; Industry studies
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Houseman, Susan N. 2006. "Outsourcing, Offshoring, and Productivity Measurement in U.S. Manufacturing." Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 06-130. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. https://doi.org/10.17848/wp06-130