Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Essays on Institutions and Innovation in Natural Resource Industries
by Gilbert, Benjamin Travis, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 2011, 171; 3458469
Abstract (Summary)

Technological progress is associated with both excessive depletion and improved conservation of environmental resources. This dissertation explores the role of technological progress under different regulatory and producing institutions.

The first chapter, “Firm Boundaries and Impure Public Goods”, establishes a relationship between property rights, firm structure, and productivity. I adapt the theory of the firm to show that reducing common-pool externalities can lead to mergers (distinct from permit consolidation among low cost firms) and greater human capital investments. These predictions are supported by data from the New England groundfish industry where some groups called “sectors” were exempted from input controls and given a collective output quota. Sectors exhibited better managerial performance (i.e., higher productivity) relative to non-sector firms following the change, but the species composition of their harvest shifted considerably.

The following two chapters investigate technology adoption and productivity in common-pool resource industries. The second chapter, “Technological Change and Managerial Ability: Evidence from a Malaysian Artisanal Fishery”, uses stochastic frontier analysis to compare the productivity of technology adopters in the gillnet fishery on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Technologies include cell phones, GPS, sonar, and mechanical winches for hauling nets. Electronics adopters were more productive than non-adopters on average but difficult to distinguish from efficient non-adopters, while adopters of mechanical net haulers had low technical efficiency, low labor productivity and high labor use. Our results suggest capital investments in new technology may tie the least successful participants to the fishery despite most respondents' self-reported desire to exit.

The dynamic implications of these findings are explored in the third chapter, “Exogenous Productivity Shocks and Capital Investment in Common-pool Resources”. We develop a compound Poisson process to model rapid adoption of technologies in common-pool industries. Technology shocks lower the equilibrium resource stock while causing capital buildup based on transitory quasi-rents. The steady state changes from a stable node to a shifting focus with boom and bust cycles, even if only technology is uncertain.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Groves, Theodore
Commitee: Carson, Richard, Graff Zivin, Josh, Jacobsen, Mark, Squires, Dale, Zhang, Junjie
School: University of California, San Diego
Department: Economics
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Business administration, Environmental economics, Agricultural economics
Keywords: Common-pool, Externalities, Firm boundaries, Fisheries, Malaysia, Property rights, Technology, Technology adoption
Publication Number: 3458469
ISBN: 9781124703411