The origin of spatial interaction
Geography shapes economic outcomes in a major way. This paper uses spatial empirical methods to detect and analyze trade patterns in a historical data set on Chinese rice prices. Our results suggest that spatial features were important for the expansion of interregional trade. Geography dictates, first, over what distances trade was possible in different regions, because the costs of ship transport were considerably below those for land transport. Spatial features also influence the direction in which a trading network is expanding. Moreover, our analysis captures the impact of new trade routes both within and outside the trading areas. We also discuss the long-run implications this might have.
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