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Economists have shown that large and persistent differences in productivity levels across businesses are ubiquitous. In this talk, Chad Syverson reviewed what the research tells us about the reasons for these differences. He showed that the causes of productivity differences are manifold. They include elements sourced in production practices—and therefore over which producers have some direct control, at least in theory—as well as from producers’ external operating environments.

After reviewing current knowledge, Syverson, the J.Baum Harris Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth, outlined the major questions remaining to understand variation in firms’ efficiency.

His talk was based on this paper.