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An alternative theory of the plant size distribution with an application to trade

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  • Thomas J. Holmes
  • John J. Stevens

Abstract

There is wide variation in the sizes of manufacturing plants, even within the most narrowly defined industry classifications used by statistical agencies. Standard theories attribute all such size differences to productivity differences. This paper develops an alternative theory in which industries are made up of large plants producing standardized goods and small plants making custom or specialty goods. It uses confidential Census data to estimate the parameters of the model, including estimates of plant counts in the standardized and specialty segments by industry. The estimated model fits the data relatively well compared with estimates based on standard approaches. In particular, the predictions of the model for the impacts of a surge in imports from China are consistent with what happened to U.S. manufacturing industries that experienced such a surge over the period 1997--2007. Large-scale standardized plants were decimated, while small-scale specialty plants were relatively less impacted.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 445.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:445

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Keywords: Productivity ; Imports;

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  1. Thomas J. Holmes & John J. Stevens, 2002. "Geographic Concentration and Establishment Scale," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(4), pages 682-690, November.
  2. Thomas J. Holmes & John J. Stevens, 2010. "An alternative theory of the plant size distribution with an application to trade," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-30, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
  4. Chad Syverson, 2001. "Market Structure and Productivity: A Concrete Example," Working Papers 01-06, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  5. Hillberry, Russell & Hummels, David, 2008. "Trade responses to geographic frictions: A decomposition using micro-data," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 527-550, April.
  6. Erzo G. J. Luttmer, 2007. "Selection, Growth, and the Size Distribution of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1103-1144, 08.
  7. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Peter K. Schott, 2003. "Survival of the Best Fit: Exposure to Low-Wage Countries and the (Uneven) Growth of US Manufacturing Plants," Working Paper Series WP03-3, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  8. Alvarez, Fernando & Lucas, Robert Jr., 2007. "General equilibrium analysis of the Eaton-Kortum model of international trade," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(6), pages 1726-1768, September.
  9. Thomas J. Holmes & John J. Stevens, 2002. "Geographic concentration and establishment size: analysis in an alternative economic geography model," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-17, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  10. Mark J. Melitz, 2002. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," NBER Working Papers 8881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Hallak, Juan Carlos & Sivadasan, Jagadeesh, 2011. "Firms' Exporting Behavior under Quality Constraints," Working Papers 628, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  12. Hopenhayn, Hugo & Rogerson, Richard, 1993. "Job Turnover and Policy Evaluation: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(5), pages 915-38, October.
  13. Buera, Francisco J. & Kaboski, Joseph P., 2012. "Scale and the origins of structural change," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(2), pages 684-712.
  14. Russell Hillberry & David Hummels, 2003. "Intranational Home Bias: Some Explanations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 1089-1092, November.
  15. George Alessandria & Horag Choi, 2007. "Establishment heterogeneity, exporter dynamics, and the effects of trade liberalization," Working Papers 07-17, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  16. Hopenhayn, Hugo A, 1992. "Entry, Exit, and Firm Dynamics in Long Run Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1127-50, September.
  17. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 1978. "On the Size Distribution of Business Firms," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(2), pages 508-523, Autumn.
  18. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Selection and the Evolution of Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 649-70, May.
  19. Holmes, Thomas J. & Stevens, John J., 2004. "Spatial distribution of economic activities in North America," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 63, pages 2797-2843 Elsevier.
  20. Head, Keith & Ries, John, 1999. "Rationalization effects of tariff reductions," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 295-320, April.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Kristian Behrens & Giordano Mion & Yasusada Murata & Jens Südekum, 2011. "Spatial Frictions," CEP Discussion Papers dp1108, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  2. Holmes, Thomas J. & Stevens, John J., 2012. "Exports, borders, distance, and plant size," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 91-103.
  3. MARTIN, Julien & MAYNERIS , Florian & ,, 2013. "High-end variety exporters defying distance: micro facts and macroeconomic implications," CORE Discussion Papers 2013061, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  4. Nicholas Bloom & Mirko Draca & John Van Reenen, 2011. "Trade Induced Technical Change? The Impact of Chinese Imports on Innovation, IT and Productivity," NBER Working Papers 16717, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Thomas J. Holmes & John J. Stevens, 2010. "An Alternative Theory of the Plant Size Distribution with an Application to Trade," Working Papers 10-10, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  6. Julian di Giovanni & Andrei A. Levchenko, 2011. "Country Size, International Trade, and Aggregate Fluctuations in Granular Economies," NBER Working Papers 17335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. A. Kerem Coşar & Nezih Guner & James Tybout, 2011. "Firm dynamics, job turnover, and wage distributions in an open economy," Working Papers 2011-06, Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados (IMDEA) Ciencias Sociales.
  8. Casaburi, Lorenzo & Minerva, G. Alfredo, 2011. "Production in advance versus production to order: The role of downstream spatial clustering and product differentiation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 32-46, July.
  9. Ezra Oberfield & Devesh Raval, 2012. "Micro data and macro technology," Working Paper Series WP-2012-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

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