Capital Allocation and Productivity in South Europe
Following the introduction of the euro in 1999, countries in the South experienced large capital inflows and low productivity. We use data for manufacturing firms in Spain to document a significant increase in the dispersion of the return to capital across firms, a stable dispersion of the return to labor across firms, and a significant increase in productivity losses from misallocation over time. We develop a model of heterogeneous firms facing financial frictions and investment adjustment costs. The model generates cross-sectional and time-series patterns in size, productivity, capital returns, investment, and debt consistent with those observed in production and balance sheet data. We illustrate how the decline in the real interest rate, often attributed to the euro convergence process, leads to a decline in sectoral total factor productivity as capital inflows are misallocated toward firms that have higher net worth but are not necessarily more productive. We conclude by showing that similar trends in dispersion and productivity losses are observed in Italy and Portugal but not in Germany, France, and Norway.