Productivity and Efficiency Analysis Using R

  • DateSaturday 4 May – Sunday 5 May 2019

  • WhereRoom 213,Chamberlain Building, UQ

This two-day intensive course presents a new and coherent framework for analysing the performance of firm managers. The focus is on measures of performance that are of practical relevance to policymakers. Most, if not all, of these measures can be viewed as measures of productivity and/or efficiency.

Unlike many courses in productivity and efficiency analysis, this course explains how to measure productivity in ways that are consistent with measurement theory. The course also explains how piecewise frontier models (PFMs), deterministic frontier models (DFMs) and stochastic frontier models (SFMs) can be used to explain variations in productivity.

Participants will obtain hands-on experience implementing various models using R. R is a free open-source software package that is widely used for statistical analysis in all branches of academia, government and industry. 


Standard fee

incl. GST

Full-time students

incl. GST

Who should attend

The course is aimed at graduate students, researchers, economists, statisticians and consultants from private and public sector organisations, regulatory authorities, regulated firms, infrastructure industries (e.g. electricity, gas, railways), service industries (e.g. education, health), and industries with branch structures (e.g. banks, credit unions, franchises, retail chains).

Participants are expected to have an understanding of microeconomics and econometrics similar to that of a second-year undergraduate economics student at an Australian university.

About the presenter

Chris O'Donnell

Christopher O’Donnell is a Professor of Econometrics at the University of Queensland. He is an associate editor of the Journal of Productivity Analysis, an associate editor of Empirical Economics, and a distinguished fellow of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society. His research interests focus on mathematical programming and statistical methods for measuring and analysing productivity and efficiency change. His work has been published in leading economics and econometrics journals, including the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, the Journal of Econometrics, the Journal of Applied Econometrics, and Econometric Reviews. He has provided in-house training and/or been a consultant for organisations including the World Bank, the Asian Productivity Organization, the International Rice Research Institute, the Australian Energy Regulator, the New South Wales Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, and the Australian Independent Hospital Pricing Authority. 

Course outline

The course material is drawn from O’Donnell, C.J. (2018) Productivity and Efficiency Analysis: An Economic Approach to Measuring and Explaining Managerial Performance, Springer Nature, Singapore. Participants will receive copies of this recently published textbook. Course instruction will take the form of lectures and tutorial sessions that give participants hands-on experience using R.

Program schedule

View timing and venue details for all sessions.

Download the program schedule (PDF, 100.9 KB)


Production technologies

To explain variations in managerial performance, we need to know something about what can and cannot be produced using different production technologies. The input-output combinations that are possible using different technologies in different environments can be represented by output sets, input sets and production possibilities sets. Under certain conditions, they can also be represented by distance, revenue, cost and profit functions. This topic defines, and discusses the properties of, these different sets and functions.

Measures of productivity change

Measures of productivity change are measures of output quantity change divided by measures of input quantity change. This topic discusses so-called indices of output and input quantity change (and therefore productivity change) that are proper in the sense that they satisfy a set of important axioms from index theory. One of these axioms is transitivity. If firm A produced twice as much as firm B, and firm B produced twice as much as firm C, then a transitive index would say that firm A produced four times as much as firm C. The class of proper indices includes various additive, multiplicative, primal and dual indices. Indices that are NOT proper include the widely-used Fisher, Tornqvist, Malmquist, EKS and CCD indices.

Managerial behaviour

To explain changes in outputs and inputs, and therefore changes in productivity, we need to know something about managerial behaviour. The existence of different sets and functions has few, if any, implications for behavior. The existence of cost functions, for example, does not mean that managers will aim to minimise costs. Instead, different managers will tend to behave differently depending on what they value and what they can and cannot choose. For example, if managers value goods and services at market prices, then, if possible, they will tend to choose outputs and inputs to maximise profits. This topic discusses some of the simplest optimisation problems faced by firm managers.

Measures of efficiency

Measures of efficiency can be viewed as ex post measures of how well firm managers have solved different optimisation problems. For example, measures of profit efficiency can be viewed as measures of how well managers have maximised profits when inputs and outputs have been chosen freely. This topic discusses various output, input, revenue, cost, profit and productivity-oriented measures of efficiency.

Piecewise frontier models

Estimating/predicting levels of efficiency involves estimating production frontiers. A widely-used estimation approach involves enveloping scatterplots of data points as tightly as possible without violating any assumptions that have been made about production technologies. Some of the most common assumptions lead to estimated frontiers that are comprised of multiple linear segments (or pieces). The associated frontiers are known as piecewise frontiers. This topic explains how to estimate the unknown parameters of so-called piecewise frontier models (PFMs). It then explains how the estimated parameters can be used to analyse efficiency and productivity change. The focus is on what are commonly known as data envelopment analysis (DEA) estimators.

Deterministic frontier models

Production frontiers are often represented by distance, revenue, cost and/or profit functions. These functions can sometimes be written in the form of regression models in which the explanatory variables are deterministic (i.e. not random). This topic explains how to estimate and draw inferences concerning the unknown parameters of so-called deterministic frontier models (DFMs). It then explains how the estimated parameters can be used to predict levels of efficiency and analyse productivity change. The focus is on least squares (LS) estimators and predictors.

Stochastic frontier models

Distance, revenue, cost and profit functions can always be written in the form of regression models with unobserved error terms representing statistical noise and different types of inefficiency. In practice, the noise components are almost always assumed to be random variables (i.e. stochastic). The associated frontiers are known as stochastic frontiers. This topic explains how to estimate and draw inferences concerning the unknown parameters of so-called stochastic frontier models (SFMs). It then explains how the estimated parameters can be used to predict levels of efficiency and analyse productivity change. The focus is on maximum likelihood (ML) estimators and predictors.

Practical issues

Policy-oriented performance analysis involves a number of steps that are best completed in a prescribed order or sequence. For example, it is usually best to fully describe the production unit before attempting to list and classify all the variables that are physically involved in the production process. It is generally also best to identify relevant measures of performance before assembling the data and choosing an estimation approach. This topic describes the main steps involved in policy-oriented performance analysis. It also discusses some policy options for targeting the different drivers of managerial performance.

Contact and bookings

Professor Chris O'Donnell 
School of Economics
Colin Clark building (#39)
The University of Queensland
St Lucia 4072 Australia

+61 (07) 334 69256