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The Missing Food Problem: Trade, Agriculture, and International Productivity Differences

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  • Trevor Tombe

Abstract

Agriculture in poor countries has low productivity, high employment, and negligible trade flows relative to other sectors. These facts motivate a multisector, open-economy view of international productivity differences. With a quantitative multicountry model featuring nonhomothetic preferences, multiple interrelated sectors, distorted labor markets, and costly trade, I find: trade amplifies the negative effect of labor market distortions; trade costs—large for poor countries, especially in agriculture—significantly contribute to international productivity differences; and explicitly modeling agriculture reveals additional channels through which poor countries may gain from trade. (JEL F41, J24, J43, O13, O19, Q11, Q17)

Suggested Citation

  • Trevor Tombe, 2015. "The Missing Food Problem: Trade, Agriculture, and International Productivity Differences," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 226-258, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmac:v:7:y:2015:i:3:p:226-58
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/mac.20130108
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Restuccia, Diego & Yang, Dennis Tao & Zhu, Xiaodong, 2008. "Agriculture and aggregate productivity: A quantitative cross-country analysis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 234-250, March.
    2. Fernando Parro, 2013. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and the Skill Premium in a Quantitative Model of Trade," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 72-117, April.
    3. Tasso Adamopoulos, 2011. "Transportation Costs, Agricultural Productivity, And Cross‐Country Income Differences," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 52(2), pages 489-521, May.
    4. Keith Head & John Ries, 2001. "Increasing Returns versus National Product Differentiation as an Explanation for the Pattern of U.S.-Canada Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 858-876, September.
    5. Lorenzo Caliendo & Fernando Parro, 2015. "Estimates of the Trade and Welfare Effects of NAFTA," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(1), pages 1-44.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J43 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Agricultural Labor Markets
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations
    • Q11 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Aggregate Supply and Demand Analysis; Prices
    • Q17 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agriculture in International Trade

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