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Financial constraints and productivity: Evidence from Canadian SMEs

Shutao Cao and Danny Leung ()

No 6202, Working Paper Series from Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance

Abstract: The degree to which financial constraints are binding is often not directly observable in commonly used business data sets (e.g., Compustat). In this paper, we measure and estimate the likelihood of a firm being constrained by external financing using a data set of small and medium-sized Canadian firms. Our measure separates the need for financing from the degree of being constrained, conditional on the need for financing. We find that firm size, the current debt-to-asset ratio and cash flow are robust indicators that can be used as a proxy for financial constraint. The total debt-to-asset ratio is not, however, a statistically significant indicator of financial constraint. In addition, firms with higher cash flow are less likely to need external financing and to be constrained if they do need it. We then estimate the firm-level total factor productivity by taking into account the measured likelihood of binding financial constraints. Coefficient estimates for labor and capital in the structural estimation of production function can be downward biased if financial constraints are omitted, because production inputs are negatively correlated with the likelihood of being constrained by external financing. This in turn leads to an upward bias in total factor productivity, which is about 4 percent according to our estimation. Finally, both investment and employment growth are negatively affected by the measured degree of financial constraints, pointing to the contribution of financial constraints to misallocation.

Keywords: Productivity; Financial constraint; Production function (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-bec, nep-eff, nep-ent and nep-sbm
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Working Paper: Financial Constraint and Productivity: Evidence from Canadian SMEs (2016) Downloads
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