Measuring the Social Return to R&D
Charles Jones () and
John Williams ()
Working Papers from Stanford University, Department of Economics
January 24, 1997, Version 2.00 Is there too much or too little private research and development (R&D)? A large empirical literature reports estimates of the rate of return to R&D ranging from 30% to over 100%, supporting the notion that there is too little private investment in research. However, this conclusion is challenged by the new growth theory, which emphasizes a richer description of the connection between R&D and productivity. In this paper we bridge the gap between the theoretical and empirical literatures. Using the framework of an R&D-based growth model, we derive analytically the relationship between the social rate of return to R&D and the coefficient estimates of the empirical literature. Somewhat surprisingly, we show that these estimates represent a lower bound on the true social rate of return. Furthermore, our analytic framework provides a direct mapping from the rate of return to the degree of underinvestment in research. Using a conservative estimate of the rate of return to R&D of about 30%, optimal R&D investment is at least four times larger than actual investment. This is a substantially revised version of an earlier paper, "Too Much of a Good Thing? The Economics of Investment in R&D"
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Journal Article: Measuring the Social Return to R&D (1998)
Working Paper: Measuring the social return to R&D (1997)
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