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Quantifying the Sources of Firm Heterogeneity

Listed author(s):
  • Colin J. Hottman
  • Stephen J. Redding
  • David E. Weinstein

We develop and structurally estimate a model of heterogeneous multiproduct firms that can be used to decompose the firm-size distribution into the contributions of costs, "appeal" (quality or taste), markups, and product scope. Using Nielsen barcode data on prices and sales, we find that variation in firm appeal and product scope explains at least four fifths of the variation in firm sales. We show that the imperfect substitutability of products within firms, and the fact that larger firms supply more products than smaller firms, implies that standard productivity measures are highly dependent on implicit demand system assumptions and probably dramatically understate the relative productivity of the largest firms. Although most firms are well approximated by the monopolistic competition benchmark of constant markups, we find that the largest firms that account for most of aggregate sales depart substantially from this benchmark, and exhibit both variable markups and substantial cannibalization effects. JEL Codes: L11, L21, L25, L60.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/qjw012
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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 131 (2016)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 1291-1364

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Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:131:y:2016:i:3:p:1291-1364.
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  1. Robert C. Feenstra, 2014. "Restoring the Product Variety and Pro-competitive Gains from Trade with Heterogeneous Firms and Bounded Productivity," NBER Working Papers 19833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Christian Broda & David E. Weinstein, 2006. "Globalization and the Gains From Variety," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 541-585.
  3. 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.
  4. Chris Edmond & Virgiliu Midrigan & Daniel Yi Xu, 2015. "Competition, Markups, and the Gains from International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(10), pages 3183-3221, October.
  5. Costas Arkolakis & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2010. "The Extensive Margin of Exporting Products: A Firm-level Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 3309, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Costas Arkolakis & Arnaud Costinot & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 2012. "New Trade Models, Same Old Gains?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 94-130, February.
  7. Ana Cecília Fieler & Marcela Eslava & Daniel Xu, 2014. "Trade, Skills, and Quality Upgrading: A Theory with Evidence from Colombia," NBER Working Papers 19992, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Xavier Gabaix, 2011. "The Granular Origins of Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(3), pages 733-772, 05.
  9. Costas Arkolakis & Arnaud Costinot & Dave Donaldson & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 2015. "The Elusive Pro-Competitive Effects of Trade," NBER Working Papers 21370, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Mark J. Roberts & Daniel Yi Xu & Xiaoyan Fan & Shengxing Zhang, 2012. "The Role of Firm Factors in Demand, Cost, and Export Market Selection for Chinese Footwear Producers," NBER Working Papers 17725, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Volker Nocke & Stephen Yeaple, 2006. "Globalization and Endogenous Firm Scope," NBER Working Papers 12322, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Jean-Pierre Dubé, 2004. "Multiple Discreteness and Product Differentiation: Demand for Carbonated Soft Drinks," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 23(1), pages 66-81, September.
  13. Itai Agur, 2010. "Trade Liberalization, Firm Selection, and Variety Growth," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(3), pages 582-594, August.
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