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A Balls-and-Bins Model of Trade

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  • Roc Armenter
  • Miklós Koren

Abstract

A number of stylized facts have been documented about the extensive margin of trade---which firms export, and how many products they send to how many destinations. We argue that the sparse nature of trade data is crucial to understanding these stylized facts. Typically the number of observations---that is, total shipments---is low relative to the number of possible classifications---e.g., countries and product codes. We propose a statistical model to account for the sparsity of trade data. We formalize the assignment of shipments to categories as balls falling into bins. The balls-and-bins model quantitatively reproduces the prevalence of zero product-level trade flows across export destinations. The model also accounts for firm-level facts: as in the data, most firms export a single product to a single country but these firms represent a tiny fraction of total exports. In contrast, the balls-and-bins model cannot reproduce the small fraction of exporters among U.S. firms. We discuss the implications for identifying the relevant model of the extensive margin in trade.

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Paper provided by Center for Firms in the Global Economy in its series CeFiG Working Papers with number 3.

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Date of creation: 01 May 2008
Date of revision: 01 May 2008
Handle: RePEc:cfg:cfigwp:3

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  16. Carolyn L. Evans & James Harrigan, 2005. "Distance, Time, and Specialization: Lean Retailing in General Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 292-313, March.
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  18. Jože P. Damijan & Sašo Polanec & Janez Prašnikar, 2007. "Outward FDI and Productivity: Micro-evidence from Slovenia," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 30(1), pages 135-155, 01.
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