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Exporting and Firm Performance: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment


  • David Atkin
  • Amit K. Khandelwal
  • Adam Osman


We conduct a randomized experiment that generates exogenous variation in the access to foreign markets for rug producers in Egypt. Combined with detailed survey data, we causally identify the impact of exporting on firm performance. Treatment firms report 16–26% higher profits and exhibit large improvements in quality alongside reductions in output per hour relative to control firms. These findings do not simply reflect firms being offered higher margins to manufacture high-quality products that take longer to produce. Instead, we find evidence of learning-by-exporting whereby exporting improves technical efficiency. First, treatment firms have higher productivity and quality after controlling for rug specifications. Second, when asked to produce an identical domestic rug using the same inputs and same capital equipment, treatment firms produce higher quality rugs despite no difference in production time. Third, treatment firms exhibit learning curves over time. Finally, we document knowledge transfers with quality increasing most along the specific dimensions that the knowledge pertained to.

Suggested Citation

  • David Atkin & Amit K. Khandelwal & Adam Osman, 2017. "Exporting and Firm Performance: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(2), pages 551-615.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:132:y:2017:i:2:p:551-615.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Albert Park & Dean Yang & Xinzheng Shi & Yuan Jiang, 2010. "Exporting and Firm Performance: Chinese Exporters and the Asian Financial Crisis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 822-842, November.
    2. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List & Chad Syverson, 2013. "Toward an Understanding of Learning by Doing: Evidence from an Automobile Assembly Plant," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(4), pages 643-681.
    3. Marcela Eslava & James Tybout & David Jinkins & C. Krizan & Jonathan Eaton, 2015. "A Search and Learning Model of Export Dynamics," 2015 Meeting Papers 1535, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Alvaro Garcia Marin & Nico Voigtländer, 2013. "Exporting and Plant-Level Efficiency Gains: It's in the Measure," NBER Working Papers 19033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christopher Hansman & Jonas Hjort & Gianmarco León & Matthieu Teachout, 2017. "Vertical Integration, Supplier Behavior, and Quality Upgrading among Exporters," NBER Working Papers 23949, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity


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