DP12273 Measuring Productivity Dispersion: Lessons From Counting One-Hundred Million Ballots

Author(s): Ethan Ilzetzki, Saverio Simonelli
Publication Date: September 2017
Keyword(s): cultural economics, Development accounting, labor productivity, work ethic
JEL(s): E24, J24, O47, Z10
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12273

We measure output per worker in nearly 8,000 municipalities in the Italian electoral process using ballot counting times in the 2013 general election and two referenda in 2016. We document large productivity dispersion across provinces in this very uniform and low-skill task that involves nearly no technology and requires limited physical capital. Using a development accounting framework, this measure explains up to half of the firm-level productivity dispersion across Italian provinces and more than half the north-south productivity gap in Italy. We explore potential drivers of our measure of labor efficiency and find that its association with measures of work ethic and trust is particularly robust.