Relatedness economies, absorptive capacity, and economic catch-up: Firm-level evidence from China

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Abstract

This paper examines the effect of agglomeration economies on firm productivity and the role of absorptive capacity in China. Taking into account the transitioning economy context, I further exploit the gradual and spatially uneven implementation of market-oriented reforms to track the relative importance of firms' absorptive capacity for economic catch-up. The three main results are as follows. First, firms exhibit higher productivity when located in an area with a denser network of related activities, particularly for firms with higher absorptive capacity. Second, the sources of the productivity gains are driven by externalities that arise from better access to inputs, similar workers and technological-related knowledge spillovers. Third, the role of absorptive capacity becomes more important for boosting productivity following more versus less intensive market-oriented economic reforms. These findings have important policy implications for transitioning economies and suggest that market reforms promote efficiency improvements related to performing actual R&D as well as encourage firms to seek out external sources of knowledge in order to attain market competitiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-575
Number of pages19
JournalIndustrial and Corporate Change
Volume29
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics

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