Development accounting is the manipulation of a production function to examine whether cross-country income differences arise from differences in total factor productivity (TFP), or due to factor accumulation. It is useful to find this information out so that we can correctly inform policy decisions and let developing countries know if they need to simply increase quantity of factors of production (i.e. promote higher fertility, immigration, labour market inclusion and capital appreciation), whether they need to increase the quality of the factors of production (better education and more efficient use of investment funds) or if they need to increase efficiency and technological adoption.
According to Prescott the reason for business cycles is due to technology shocks which manifest itself as changes in the TFP productivity term (or Solow residual) A. Summers criticises this explanation believing that Prescott doesn’t provide evidence for where these technology shocks come to. Furthermore he cites Berndt who shows that the oil shock crisis – recessionary periods in the 1970s for both the US and the UK – had little effect on labour productivity which would cast doubt on Prescott’s story. Summers also points out that US GNP declined by 50% between 1929 and 1933, and questions whether it is really plausible that such an output shock could be caused by a productivity shock which lead to inter-temporal substitution on such a scale, as Prescott’s model would predict.