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The superstar and the followers: Intra-firm product complementarity in international trade

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  • Arnarson, Björn Thor

Abstract

Export sales of multi-product firms are known to be skewed towards their best performing core products. Less is known about the large number of products outside the core that still account for a considerable share of the export value. I use high-quality Swedish firm-registry data to investigate if the exports of core and non-core products are systematically interconnected. Using a novel instrumental variable approach, I find evidence that the exports of non-core products respond to trade of the core. Conversely, the same complementarity is not found using non-core products as placebo-cores. Decomposing the response, I find that over a quarter of the effect can be attributed to price changes of non-core products, suggestive of demand-side explanations. The main contribution of this paper is identifying a new, sizeable, and systematic within-firm one-way complementarity between products that can explain non-core product trade flows. Ignoring this pattern of cross-product dependence may lead to an under-emphasis on the core and over-emphasis on individual trade flows as products should not be viewed in isolation, since the ‘superstar’ core has (contemporaneous) followers.

Suggested Citation

  • Arnarson, Björn Thor, 2020. "The superstar and the followers: Intra-firm product complementarity in international trade," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 177(C), pages 277-304.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:177:y:2020:i:c:p:277-304
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2020.06.013
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Multi-product firms; Product complementarity; Intra-firm product dependence; Within-destination export variation; Product demand; Product synergies;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • L1 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior

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