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Nonhomothetic Preferences and International Trade


  • Jeffrey J. Reimer
  • Thomas W. Hertel


This study examines whether nonhomothetic preferences underlie the "missing trade" problem associated with factor content of trade models. We first find that per capita income goes a long way in explaining differences in goods consumption across countries. We then find a striking correlation between the factor content of consumption and per capita income, and show that accounting for this is a key part of resolving the case of the missing trade. However, nonhomothetic preferences over broad categories of expenditure play only a small role in this phenomenon. Rather, we find that as income grows, spending is directed towards the relatively capital-intensive version of a given good. Since recent research shows that capital intensity is correlated with quality ( Schott, 2004 ), our results suggest that within-product quality differences are likely important for explaining the factor content of trade, whereas nonhomothetic preferences over broad categories of expenditure are much less so. Copyright © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey J. Reimer & Thomas W. Hertel, 2010. "Nonhomothetic Preferences and International Trade," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(2), pages 408-425, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:reviec:v:18:y:2010:i:2:p:408-425

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hanoch, Giora, 1975. "Production and Demand Models with Direct or Indirect Implicit Additivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(3), pages 395-419, May.
    2. Davis, Donald R. & David E. Weinstein & Scott C. Bradford & Kazushige Shimpo, 1997. "Using International and Japanese Regional Data to Determine When the Factor Abundance Theory of Trade Works," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 421-446, June.
    3. Reimer, Jeffrey J., 2006. "Global production sharing and trade in the services of factors," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 384-408, March.
    4. Donald R. Davis & David E. Weinstein, 2001. "An Account of Global Factor Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1423-1453, December.
    5. John Cranfield & Paul Preckel & James Eales & Thomas Hertel, 2000. "On the estimation of 'an implicitly additive demand system'," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(15), pages 1907-1915.
    6. Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Across-Product Versus Within-Product Specialization in International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 647-678.
    7. Bowen, Harry P & Leamer, Edward E & Sveikauskas, Leo, 1987. "Multicountry, Multifactor Tests of the Factor Abundance Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 791-809, December.
    8. Gordon H. Hanson & Robert C. Feenstra, 2000. "Aggregation Bias in the Factor Content of Trade: Evidence from U.S. Manufacturing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 155-160, May.
    9. Richard B. Freeman & Remco Oostendorp, 2000. "Wages Around the World: Pay Across Occupations and Countries," NBER Working Papers 8058, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Italianer, Alexander, 1985. "A small-sample correction for the likelihood ratio test," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 315-317.
    11. Jeffrey Reimer & Thomas Hertel, 2004. "Estimation of International Demand Behaviour for Use with Input-Output Based Data," Economic Systems Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(4), pages 347-366.
    12. Trefler, Daniel, 1995. "The Case of the Missing Trade and Other Mysteries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1029-1046, December.
    13. Markusen, James R, 1986. "Explaining the Volume of Trade: An Eclectic Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1002-1011, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elleby, Christian, 2014. "Poverty and Price Transmission," 2014 International Congress, August 26-29, 2014, Ljubljana, Slovenia 182722, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    2. Caron, Justin & Fally, Thibault & Markusen, James R., 2012. "Skill Premium and Trade Puzzles: A Solution Linking Production and Preferences," CEPR Discussion Papers 8999, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. James Cassing & Shuichiro Nishioka, 2015. "Per Capita Income and the Mystery of Missing Trade," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(3), pages 606-619, August.
    4. repec:hal:cesptp:hal-00959394 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Markusen, James R., 2013. "Putting per-capita income back into trade theory," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(2), pages 255-265.
    6. Lionel Fontagné & Sophie Hatte, 2014. "European High-End Varieties in International Competition," Working Papers 2014-27, CEPII research center.
    7. Lionel Fontagné & Sophie Hatte, 2013. "European High-End Products in International Competition," PSE - G-MOND WORKING PAPERS hal-00959394, HAL.
    8. repec:hal:wpaper:hal-01299820 is not listed on IDEAS

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