Alessandro Topetta
Jason Sockin
Todd Schoellman
Paolo Martellini
UCL Policy Lab
Natalia Ramondo
Javier Cravino
Vanessa Alviarez
Natalia Ramondo
Javier Cravino
Vanessa Alviarez
Hugo Reis
Pedro Carneiro
Raul Santaeulalia-Llopis
Diego Restuccia
Chaoran Chen
Brad J. Hershbein
Claudia Macaluso
Chen Yeh
Xuan Tam
Xin Tang
Marina M. Tavares
Adrian Peralta-Alva
Carlos Carillo-Tudela
Felix Koenig
Joze Sambt
Ronald Lee
James Sefton
David McCarthy
Bledi Taska
Carter Braxton
Alp Simsek
Plamen T. Nenov
Gabriel Chodorow-Reich
Virgiliu Midrigan
Corina Boar
Sauro Mocetti
Guglielmo Barone
Steven J. Davis
Nicholas Bloom
José María Barrero
Thomas Sampson
Adrien Matray
Natalie Bau
Darryl Koehler
Laurence J. Kotlikoff
Alan J. Auerbach
Irina Popova
Alexander Ludwig
Dirk Krueger
Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln
Taylor Jaworski
Walker Hanlon
Ludo Visschers
Carlos Carillo-Tudela
Henrik Kleven
Kristian Jakobsen
Katrine Marie Jakobsen
Alessandro Guarnieri
Tanguy van Ypersele
Fabien Petit
Cecilia García-Peñalosa
Yonatan Berman
Nina Weber
Julian Limberg
David Hope
Pedro Tremacoldi-Rossi
Tatiana Mocanu
Marco Ranaldi
Silvia Vannutelli
Raymond Fisman
John Voorheis
Reed Walker
Janet Currie
Roel Dom
Marcos Vera-Hernández
Emla Fitzsimons
José V. Rodríguez Mora
Tomasa Rodrigo
Álvaro Ortiz
Stephen Hansen
Vasco Carvalho
Gergely Buda
Gabriel Zucman
Anders Jensen
Matthew Fisher-Post
José-Alberto Guerra
Myra Mohnen
Christopher Timmins
Ignacio Sarmiento-Barbieri
Peter Christensen
Linda Wu
Gaurav Khatri
Julián Costas-Fernández
Eleonora Patacchini
Jorgen Harris
Marco Battaglini
Ricardo Fernholz
Alberto Bisin
Jess Benhabib

Firm-embedded productivity and cross-country income differences

What is this research about and why did you do it?

Productivity is a crucial determinant of global income inequality, explaining about half of the variation in income per capita between countries. Our research introduces a novel framework to measure disparities arising from firm-embedded factors like blueprints, management practices, patents, and intangible capital, disentangle them from factors available to all firms in the economy, such as, natural amenities, institutions, infrastructure, and workers’ quality. Understanding these differences is vital for effective policy-making. Bridging the gap in firm-embedded productivity will prompt adoption of various policies, from research and development tax incentives to startup incubator programs, fostering productivity and narrowing income disparities.

How did you answer this question?

We analyse micro-level data on multinational enterprises, (MNEs), worldwide to measure the contribution of firm-embedded productivity on cross-country income disparities. Despite MNEs being able to transfer productivity globally, they encounter diverse competitors in each country of operation. Differences in market shares of the same MNE across nations spotlight differences in aggregate firm-embedded productivity. Our results show that MNEs hold market shares roughly four times larger in developing countries than in high-income ones, indicating a scarcity of firm-embedded productivity and diminished competition in the former. Remaining disparities in income per capita are attributed to country-embedded factors.

What did you find?

We show that there is a strong positive correlation between firm-embedded productivity and output per-worker and that differences in firm-embedded productivity account for about one-third of the cross-country variance in output per-worker. The relative importance of the differences in firm-embedded productivity varies considerably across countries. For example, firm-embedded productivity in Italy is 0.28 log-points higher than in Greece, accounting for three quarters of the observed differences in output per-worker between these two countries. In contrast, firm-embedded productivity is similar for Greece and Bulgaria, though output per-worker in Greece is 0.5 log points higher due to the difference in country-embedded factors between these two countries.

Developing accounting: firm-embedded productivity vs country-embedded factors

Note: Each circle (square) represents a country’s firm-embedded productivity (country-embedded factors) relative to France. The figure plots the decomposition in Equation (15), where Δyn is plotted in the x-axis and Δznand Δɸn  are plotted in the y-axis. The legend reports the slopes of a bivariate OLS regression of Δɸn (Δzn) on Δyn.

What implications does this have for the study (research and teaching) of wealth concentration or economic inequality?

These results underscore a key policy implication: reducing the gap in firm-embedded productivity between countries can markedly diminish cross-country income disparities. Understanding both firm-embedded and country-embedded factors is crucial for tackling global income inequalities. Policymakers can leverage this insight to craft strategies promoting firm-level productivity, fostering economic advancement and equitable development. Additionally, this research offers valuable educational content for courses in development economics, macroeconomics, and international economics, enriching students' understanding of productivity and economic inequality.

What are the next steps in your agenda?

Expanding our analysis to more developing countries is important. Our new procedure can be easily applied to more countries as new affiliate-parent matched data become available. Also, linking this data to firm-level measures of physical productivity would allow our procedure to be applied under more general assumptions. Finally, we aim to explore the impact of firm-embedded factors on cross-country economic growth differentials.


Alviarez, V., Cravino, J., & Ramondo, N.(2023). Firm-Embedded Productivity and Cross-Country Income Differences. Journal of Political Economy (Vol. 131, Issue 9, pp. 2289–2327). University of Chicago Press.

About the authors

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