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Toward an Understanding of Learning by Doing: Evidence from an Automobile Assembly Plant

Steven Levitt (), John List () and Chad Syverson

Journal of Political Economy, 2013, vol. 121, issue 4, 643 - 681

Abstract: We investigate learning by doing using detailed data from a major auto producer's assembly plant. We focus on the acquisition, aggregation, transmission, and embodiment of the knowledge stock built through learning. We find that most knowledge was not retained by plant workers despite their importance as a learning conduit. This is consistent with the plant's systems for productivity measurement and improvement. We further explore how learning at the hundreds of processes along the production line undergirds plantwide productivity. Our results shed light on how productivity gains accrue at the plant level and how firms apply managerial inputs to expand production.

Date: 2013
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