2010 AEA Annual Meeting Papers - Measuring Intangibles

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No, I am not down in Atlanta at the AEA Annual Meeting (technically the meeting of the Allied Social Science Associations - ASSA). But while the news from the meeting is dominated by the big names (like Fed Chairman Bernanke) and the big issues, there are a number of papers that are specifically relevant to the intangibles and innovation. Over the next few days I will point out some of the papers and sessions relevant to the I-Cubed Economy. Note that my observations are taken from the preliminary programs and those papers for which are available in preview form.

The first paper I would like to highlight is "Extending the Surveys on R&D to Measure Intangibles: Evidence from a Pilot Survey in the UK and the Kauffman Firm Survey," by Jonathan Haskel (Imperial College Business School), Alicia Robb (Beacon Economics), and John Haltiwanger (University of Maryland) [Download Preview]. Note that this version of the paper is Preliminary and Incomplete.

The paper describes two efforts to actually collect data on intangible capital expenditures: one in the US as part of the Kauffman Firm Survey of new companies and three in the UK. The preliminary data shows that almost half of the new companies surveyed in the US invested in some form of intangible assets (almost 65% of "high-tech" companies). For US companies, the leading intangible asset was brand development, followed by investments in software or databases, worker training and then design of new and improved products and services. Organizational development investment was very low. In the UK, the total number of companies investing in intangibles was higher (68%) as was the investment in organizational development.

Take the numbers with somewhat of a grain of salt. As the paper notes, the surveys are preliminary. Issue of comparability of the questions and question design need to be worked out. But the good news is that the effort to measure intangibles has begun.

The other good news is that we are finally recognizing the broad range of intangibles. As the paper notes:
In all samples considered here, almost all firms who invested in R&D also invested [in] other non-R&D intangible spend[ing]. Conversely, of all firms who invested in non-R&D intangible spend[ing], only a fraction invested in R&D. Thus to study only the R&D performers without intangible spending misses, on that sample, a good deal of coinvestment with the R&D and the sample itself misses much knowledge spending.
To be sure, there is still a lot of work to be done. But these surveys represent slow but steady progress in understanding intangible assets.

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I should also mention a session to be held this afternoon on Measuring Intangible Capital organized by John Haltiwanger (University of Maryland):

How Do You Measure a "Technological Revolution"?
Carol Corrado (The Conference Board)
Charles R. Hulten (University of Maryland)
(not yet available)

New approaches to surveying organizations
Nick Bloom (Stanford University)
John van Reenen (London School of Economics)
[Download Preview]
This is a survey methodology paper on how to improve organizational research.

Artistic Originals As Capital Assets
Rachel Soloveichik (Bureau of Economic Analysis)
[Download Preview]
In 2002, I estimate that US artists, studios and publishers produced artistic originals worth $65.1 billion. By category, production was $9.8 billion in theatrical movies, $7.6 billion in original songs and recordings, $7.1 billion in original books, $35.6 billion in long-lived television programs and $5 billion in miscellaneous artwork. My research on television programs and miscellaneous artwork is still incomplete, so those numbers could change significantly in the final paper.

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This page contains a single entry by Ken Jarboe published on January 4, 2010 12:09 PM.

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