E. L. van ‘t Klooster & C. N. Teulings (2023) Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 1-19. doi: 10.1080/10438599.2023.2194641
Markups, which are when prices are greater than the marginal cost of production, have increased in the USA over the last decades. Our paper explores the differences in markups between Information Technology (IT) and non-IT firms. By doing so, we contribute to the understanding of the role of the IT industry in the increase in markups. We extend to De Loecker, Eeckhout, and Unger (2020), who find that markups of publicly traded firms have risen since 1980. They argue that no industry has systematically higher markups. We develop a novel firm-level classification method using natural language processing (NLP) to distinguish IT from non-IT firms. Our approach differs from the commonly used North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Using our classification, we find that the increase in markup in the period since 1980 occurred in two separate episodes. In the first, from 1980 until 1996, firms recovered from the fall of markups in the 1970s. In the second episode, since 1996, markups of IT firms diverge enormously. Markups of IT firms surge from 47% in 1996 to 80% in 2018, while the markup of non-IT firms remains largely unchanged.