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Finance and Economics Discussion Series
Finance and Economics Discussion Series logo links to FEDS home page Measuring Capital and Technology: An Expanded Framework
Carol Corrado, Charles Hulten, and Daniel Sichel

Abstract: Business outlays on intangible assets are usually expensed in economic and financial accounts. Following Hulten (1979), this paper develops an intertemporal framework for measuring capital in which consumer utility maximization governs the expenditures that are current consumption versus those that are capital investment. This framework suggests that any business outlay that is intended to increase future rather than current consumption should be treated as capital investment. Applying this principle to newly developed estimates of business spending on intangibles, we find that, by about the mid-1990s, business investment in intangible capital was as large as business investment in traditional, tangible capital. Relative to official measures, our framework portrays the U.S. economy as having had higher gross private saving and, under plausible assumptions, fractionally higher average annual rates of change in real output and labor productivity from 1995 to 2002.

Keywords: Investment, capital, productivity, economic measurement, economic growth.

Full paper (316 KB PDF)

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Last update: November 8, 2004