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CEP discussion paper
The Marginal Product of Capital
Francesco Caselli and James Feyrer
August 2006
Paper No' CEPDP0735:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: E22; O11; O16; O41

Tags: investment; capital flows

Whether or not the marginal product of capital (MPK) differs across countries is a question that keeps coming up in discussions of comparative economic development and patterns of capital flows. We use easily accessible macroeconomic data to shed light on this issue, and find that MPKs are remarkably similar across countries. Hence, there is no prima facie support for the view that international credit frictions play a major role in preventing capital flows from rich to poor countries. Lower capital ratios in these countries are instead attributable to lower endowments of complementary factors and lower efficiency, as well as to lower prices of output goods relative to capital. We also show that properly accounting for the share of income accruing to reproducible capital is critical to reach these conclusions. One implication of our findings is that increased aid flows to developing countries will not significantly increase these countries' incomes.