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Trade Liberalization and Welfare Inequality: A Demand-Based Approach

  • Alexander Tarasov

There is strong evidence that different income groups consume di¤erent bundles of goods. This evidence suggests that trade liberalization can a¤ect welfare inequality within a country via changes in the relative prices of goods consumed by di¤erent income groups (the price effect). In this paper, I develop a framework that enables us to explore the role of the price effect in determining welfare inequality. There are two core elements in the model. First, I assume that heterogenous in income consumers share identical but nonhomothetic preferences. Secondly, I consider a monopolistic competition environment that leads to variable markups a¤ected by trade and trade costs. I �nd that trade liberalization does affect the prices of different goods differently and, as a result, can bene�fit some income classes more than others. In particular, I show that the relative welfare of the rich with respect to that of the poor has a hump shape as a function of trade costs.

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Scandinavian Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 114 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 1296-1317

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Handle: RePEc:bla:scandj:v:114:y:2012:i:4:p:1296-1317
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  1. Nancy L. Stokey, 1991. "The Volume and Composition of Trade Between Rich and Poor Countries," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(1), pages 63-80.
  2. Flam, Harry & Helpman, Elhanan, 1987. "Vertical Product Differentiation and North-South Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 810-22, December.
  3. Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Melitz, Marc, 2008. "Market Size, Trade, and Productivity," Scholarly Articles 3229096, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Fajgelbaum, Pablo & Grossman, Gene & Helpman, Elhanan, 2011. "Income Distribution, Product Quality, and International Trade," Scholarly Articles 25586659, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Kiminori Matsuyama, 1999. "A Ricardian Model with a Continuum of Goods under Non-homothetic Preferences: Demand Complementarities, Income Distribution, and North-South Trade," Discussion Papers 1241, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  6. Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg & Nina Pavcnik, 2007. "Distributional Effects of Globalization in Developing Countries," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(1), pages 39-82, March.
  7. Tarasov, Alexander, 2007. "Income Distribution, Market Structure, and Individual Welfare," MPRA Paper 7682, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Jan 2008.
  8. Stibora, Joachim & de Vaal, Albert, 2007. "Trade policy in a Ricardian model with a continuum of goods under nonhomothetic preferences," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 350-377, September.
  9. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 1989. "Income Distribution, Market Size, and Industrialization," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(3), pages 537-564.
  10. Devashish Mitra & Vitor Trindade, 2005. "Inequality and trade," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(4), pages 1253-1271, November.
  11. Deaton,Angus & Muellbauer,John, 1980. "Economics and Consumer Behavior," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521296762, November.
  12. Markusen, James R, 1986. "Explaining the Volume of Trade: An Eclectic Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1002-11, December.
  13. P Ramezzana, 2000. "Per Capita Income Demand for Variety, and International Trade: Linder Reconsidered," CEP Discussion Papers dp0460, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  14. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
  15. Krugman, Paul, 1980. "Scale Economies, Product Differentiation, and the Pattern of Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(5), pages 950-59, December.
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