Data and Code for: "The Economics of Intangible Capital"



Intangible assets are a large and growing part of firms’ capital stocks. Intangibles are accumulated via investment — foregoing consumption today for output in the future — but they lack a physical presence. Rather than stopping with this “lack”, we instead focus on the positive properties of intangibles that follow. In particular, intangibles must be stored, so characteristics of the storage medium have important implications for their value and use. These properties include non-rivalry, allowing the intangible to be used simultaneously in different production streams, and limited excludability, which prevents the firm from capturing all of the benefits or rents from the intangible. We develop these ideas in a simple way to illustrate how properties such as scalability and the unique distribution of ownership arise. We discuss how a careful study of intangibles can help to understand important trends in macroeconomics and finance, including measurement of productivity, factor shares, inequality, investment and valuation, rents and market power, and firm financing.

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