University of Toronto, Dept. of Economics - Working paper 287
Using the universe of large Canadian manufacturing firms in 1988 and 1996, we investigate to what extent firms’ outsourcing decision can be explained by a simple property rights model. A novel aspect of the data is the availability of component level information on outputs as well as inputs which permits the construction of a very detailed measure of vertical integration. Moreover, we construct five different measures of technological intensity to proxy for investments that are likely to be specific to a buyer-seller relationship. Our main findings are that (i) greater specificity makes outsourcing less likely; (ii) complementarities between the investments of the buyer and the seller are also associated with less outsourcing; (iii) only when we focus on the range of transactions with low complementarities do we find support for several nuanced predictions of the property rights model.