In recent years what was once seen as crackpot economics has now become close to conventional wisdom: the notion that productivity costs jobs. Economists call this the lump of labor fallacy. As ITIF has written here, here, and here, it’s clear that the jobs problem of today has nothing to do with productivity and that we should not worry about productivity reducing the number of jobs.
But that has not stopped many talking heads and experts from opining that yes indeed, productivity kills jobs. One graph that has gotten and continues to get widespread attention is from Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson’s book, The Second Machine Age, that shows that “productivity and employment have become decoupled.” [i]
But as any first-year statistics course will teach you, correlation does not prove causation. In fact, it is easy to get spurious correlations. Here’s one: The divorce rate in Maine is almost perfectly correlated with the per capita consumption of margarine.
In Brynjolfsson’s case, the relationship being examined merely shows two variables that happen to be increasing from 1970 to 2000, but there is no feasible underlying argument about how
In recent years, the United States has become less competitive in retaining and attracting globally mobile capital. That’s in large part due to an uncompetitive tax code that features the highest statutory corporate tax rate among OECD countries; a worldwide, as opposed to territorial, tax system; and an intermittent research and development (R&D) tax credit that has fallen to just the world’s 27th most generous, behind even Brazil, China, and India.
It’s high time for Congress to begin a serious reexamination of U.S. tax policy and to incorporate innovative approaches that spur greater levels of R&D, innovation, and investment by enterprises operating in the United States. One proposal that ITIF has long championed is the “innovation box” (or “patent box”). So named because it is implemented through a check box on a tax form, the policy provides favorable tax treatment for revenues generated from newly developed intellectual property (IP). As ITIF explained in its 2011 report “Patent Boxes: Innovation in Tax Policy and Tax Policy for Innovation,” these provisions differ from—and should be seen as a supplement to—R&D tax credits in that they provide firms with
Earlier this year the European Commission released a substantial report on R&D tax credits throughout the EU and several other OECD countries including the United States and Japan. R&D tax credits have been widely adopted across the developed world since the United States introduced the Research and Experimentation tax credit in 1981: only two countries in the EU do not have tax policies intended to encourage R&D.
The report is a thorough meta-study looking at the existing economics literature and available data on R&D-focused tax policy, including the impact of R&D tax policies on R&D expenditure, innovation, employment, productivity, and other factors. It also covers the literature on how corporate tax policy can affect the location of R&D and patents. Finally, the report examines the details of various tax policies and benchmarking them based on what they determine to be best practices.
The report makes a number of facts clear. First, despite a broad range of findings, “the vast majority” of studies surveyed show that R&D tax incentives are effective, with the most recent (and rigorous) studies finding that a 10% in the user cost of R&D results in a
A new report from Battelle based on methodology from the Academy of Radiology Research shows how federal R&D funding succeeds in producing patents. The report examines essentially all federal R&D, including not only the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health but also the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, NASA, and other agencies. It finds that, per patent, public-sector agencies provide a return comparable to private-sector ones—or even cheaper. Recent public sector budget cuts, therefore, can be expected to significantly hurt our scientific progress.
The agencies vary significantly in terms of how productive they are and how successful their patents are. Some agencies in particular, such as the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) have exceptional records for producing research that is widely useful: NIBIB is estimated to spur an additional $578.2 million, or 25 patents, for every $100 million in R&D expenditures. The DoD and NASA, on the other hand, are less efficient at producing patents at only around 2-3 patents per $100 million in R&D expenditures. (although, as the report notes, defense spending is more likely to be classified and thus not
The U.S. corporate tax system hasn’t had a major overhaul since the early 1980s, and it’s getting long in the tooth. One part that is particularly dated is the research and experimentation (R&E) tax credit provision. The new 2016 administration budget makes some important changes to the R&E credit. The credit was first implemented as a two-year trial run over 30 years ago in 1981, and has been renewed continually since then, eventually adding an updated “alternative simplified credit” (ASC) as the old credit became too unwieldy in many instances. Despite proven success as shown in many academic studies, however, the credit is continually forced to be renewed. The new administration proposal takes the obvious step of making the credit permanent, eliminates the outdated “traditional” credit making a stronger ASC the sole form of the credit, and incentivizes R&D in universities startups by increasing the amount of the credit that companies can claim for outside R&D expenditure.
While the R&E credit has evolved over the past three decades, both its core structure and its temporary span have stayed the same. It is clearly out of date: the law still
A new SSRN paper finds that research and development (R&D) helps manufacturers keep ahead of competition from imports. U.S. manufacturing firms in industries with strong import competition from China fared better 50 percent better when they had larger stocks of capital used for R&D. While this finding is intuitive, it provides an important piece of evidence that reiterates a critical point about the U.S. economy: international competitiveness is extremely important and smart R&D policy (including tax credits) is a key method of maintaining it.
The authors Johan Hombert and Adrien Matray use granular industry-level data on imports from China and show that these imports have a significant impact on the performance of U.S. manufacturing firms. They then examine whether this impact changes depending on how much R&D capital firms have. In order to make sure the R&D capital isn’t related to other factors, they use state-level changes in R&D credit policy during the 1980s.
Their results here show that firms that had access to cheaper R&D and were thus more likely to acquire more R&D capital had an easier time “climbing the quality ladder” and staying competitive in the face
In a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, three economists study the effect of a recent change in Canada’s research and development (R&D) tax credit on subsequent spending by small companies. The question is especially interesting because small firms may lack sophisticated tax advisors, earn few profits and thus have a lower tax liability against which to deduct tax credits, and have a harder time financing the fixed costs that come with additional research.
In “Do Tax Credits Affect R&D Expenditures for Small Firms? Evidence from Canada,” the authors find that firms that qualified for a larger tax credit did spend more on R&D in the following years compared to firms of similar income whose tax situation did not change. They also find evidence that the refundable nature of the credit made a significant difference.
According to the paper, Canadian tax law allows all countries to deduct 100 percent of research performed in Canada from their taxable income. It also provides all firms with a non-refundable tax credit of 20 percent of qualifying expenditures. However, for small- and medium-size companies (determined by the previous
In the 1980s, Japan was America’s chief rival in most technology industries. Not only could Japanese firms compete in advanced sectors against U.S. firms, they had an innovation advantage. In fact, research and design (R&D) investments in Japan were 40 percent more productive in producing IT patents than were R&D investments in the United States, implying that Japanese firms were better able to make advancements into developing better good, products, and processes.
However, in the 1990s this trend reversed. U.S. firms, while less innovative in hardware manufacturing, developed an innovation advantage in software, with R&D spending yielding 60 percent more patents per dollar spent in the United States than in Japan. A recent paper by Ashish Arora, Lee G. Branstette, and Matej Drev explains why.
Software represented a new frontier for an industry that had previously focused on producing hardware such as semiconductor, televisions, computers, and other advanced machinery. High-tech firms adjusted rapidly to the new challenge, and innovations quickly built on previous innovations, and an IT patent filed in 2002 was 10 times more likely to cite a software patent than one filed in 1992.
Advanced technology industries in
Proponents of effective intellectual property (IP) rights have long argued that weak IP protections will lead to less intellectual property creation. The logic appears clear: if content creators and other innovators know that a significant share of their work will be pirated or otherwise stolen they will have both less incentive and less revenue to create new ideas, creative goods, and innovations.
But how strong is this effect? To find out, we compared IP protection data from the World Economic Forum’s 2014-2015 Global Competitiveness Report, which incorporates the strength of IP laws and the stringency and effectiveness of anti-counterfeiting laws, and creative outputs scores from the 2014 Global Innovation Index, a report from Cornell, Insead and WIPO.
Put simply, countries that score higher on IP protection also score higher on creative outputs relative to the size of their economy. Over a sample of 136 countries there is a strong positive correlation of 0.72 between the strength of IP protections and score on creative outputs.
The Global Innovation Index has three distinct measures of creativity in an economy. First, “intangible assets” combines measures of domestic and international trademark applications
Many recent studies have shown that America is no longer winning the global innovation race, as demonstrated by manufacturing-sector decline, lacking public policy measures, poor advanced-sector job growth, faltering support of R&D, and overall low international rankings. The latest indication of America’s slipping innovation potential is triadic patents. Since 1999, the U.S. has experienced a sharp decline, with 13 percent fewer triadic patents, a product of America’s lethargic approach to fueling innovation.
Triadic patents are patents filed jointly with the United States Patent and Trade Office, the European Patent Office, and the Japanese Patent Office to guarantee intellectual property (IP) protection worldwide. Because they represent inventions with global impact, triadic patent numbers are in many cases a better indicator of invention and innovation than regular patents.
From 1999 to 2011, U.S. triadic patent filings decreased from 32 percent to 29 percent of global triadic patents. When controlling for increases to the U.S. working age population over this time period, the United States produces a full 25 percent fewer triadic patents per person than it did in 1999. This troubling statistic sharply contrasts with the United