Discussion paper

DP14593 Robot Imports and Firm-Level Outcomes

We use French data over the 1994-2013 period to study how imports of industrial robots affect firm-level outcomes. Compared to other firms operating in the same 5-digit sector, robot importers are larger, more productive, and employ a higher share of managers and engineers. Over time, robot import occurs after periods of expansion in firm size, and is followed by improvements in efficiency and a fall in demand for labor. Guided by a simple model, we develop various empirical strategies to identify the causal effects of robot adoption. Our results suggest that, while demand shocks generate a positive correlation between robot imports and employment, exogenous changes in automation lead to job losses. We also find that robot imports increase productivity and the employment share of high-skill professions, but have a weak effect on total sales. The latter result suggests that productivity gains from automation may not be entirely passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices.

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Citation

Bonfiglioli, A, R Crinò, H Fadinger and G Gancia (eds) (2020), “DP14593 Robot Imports and Firm-Level Outcomes”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 14593. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14593