Experiential and Social Learning in Firms: The Case of Hydraulic Fracturing in the Bakken Shale

Published in Working Paper, 2015

Little is known about how firms learn to use new technologies. Using novel data on inputs, profits, and information sets, I study how oil companies learned to use hydraulic fracturing technology in North Dakota between 2005-2012. Firms only partially learned to make profitable input choices, capturing just 60% of possible profits in 2012. To understand why, I estimate a model of input use under technology uncertainty. Firms chose fracking inputs with higher expectations but lower uncertainty about profits, consistent with passive learning but not active experimentation. Most firms over-weighed their own information. These results provide evidence of impediments to learning.

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