Thursday, July 29, 2021
De Loecker et al. (2020) have shown that markups of publicly traded firms have risen since 1980 in the US. They find that this rise cannot be attributed to a particular sector. Using the same data, this paper shows that the increase in markup is concentrated among IT firms. Firms can be classified as IT or non-IT based on industry codes, but this method ignores a number of IT firms outside specific IT industries, e.g. Amazon and Uber. We develop an alternative, firm-level classification method, by applying natural language processing (NLP) to the description of firms’ activities in Compustat. After classifying firms as IT and non-IT, we show that markups in the period since 1980 fall apart in two episodes. In the first, from 1980 until 1996, non-IT firms recovered from the fall of markups in the seventies. In the second episode, since 1996, markups of IT firms exploded from 46% in 1996 to 94% in 2017, while the markup of non-IT firms was largely stagnant.