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Exports, borders, distance, and plant size

Listed author(s):
  • Holmes, Thomas J.
  • Stevens, John J.

The fact that large manufacturing plants export relatively more than small plants has been at the foundation of much work in the international trade literature. We examine this fact using Census microdata on plant shipments from the Commodity Flow Survey. We show that the fact is not entirely an international trade phenomenon; part of it can be accounted for by the effect of distance, distinct from any border effect. Export destinations tend to be farther than domestic destinations, and large plants tend to ship farther distances even to domestic locations compared with small plants. We develop an extension of the Melitz (2003) model and use it to set up an analysis with model interpretations of ratios between large plant and small plant shipments that can be calculated with the data. We obtain a decomposition of the overall ratio into a term that varies with distance, holding fixed the border, and a term that varies with the border, holding fixed the distance. The distance term accounts for more than half of the overall difference.

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File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022199612000396
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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of International Economics.

Volume (Year): 88 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 91-103

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Handle: RePEc:eee:inecon:v:88:y:2012:i:1:p:91-103
DOI: 10.1016/j.jinteco.2012.02.012
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505552

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  1. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen J. Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2007. "Firms in International Trade," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 105-130, Summer.
  2. Andrew B. Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jensen & Samuel Kortum, 2003. "Plants and Productivity in International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1268-1290, September.
  3. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2004. "Trade Costs," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(3), pages 691-751, September.
  4. Engel, Charles & Rogers, John H, 1996. "How Wide Is the Border?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1112-1125, December.
  5. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2003. "Gravity with Gravitas: A Solution to the Border Puzzle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 170-192, March.
  6. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
  7. John F. Helliwell, 1996. "Do National Borders Matter for Quebec's Trade?," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(3), pages 507-522, August.
  8. Richard Baldwin & James Harrigan, 2011. "Zeros, Quality, and Space: Trade Theory and Trade Evidence," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 60-88, May.
  9. 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.
  10. Milgrom, Paul & Shannon, Chris, 1994. "Monotone Comparative Statics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(1), pages 157-180, January.
  11. 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.).
  12. McCallum, John, 1995. "National Borders Matter: Canada-U.S. Regional Trade Patterns," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 615-623, June.
  13. 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.
  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. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Peter K. Schott, 2009. "Importers, Exporters and Multinationals: A Portrait of Firms in the U.S. that Trade Goods," NBER Chapters,in: Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data, pages 513-552 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Costas Arkolakis, 2010. "Market Penetration Costs and the New Consumers Margin in International Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(6), pages 1151-1199.
  17. Timothy Dunne & J. Bradford Jensen & Mark J. Roberts, 2009. "Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number dunn05-1, June.
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