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Income Differences and Prices of Tradables: Insights from an Online Retailer

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  • Ina Simonovska

Abstract

I study the positive relationship between prices of tradable goods and per capita income. I develop a highly tractable general equilibrium model of international trade with heterogeneous firms and non-homothetic consumer preferences that positively links prices of tradables to consumer income. Guided by the model's testable prediction, I estimate the elasticity of price with respect to per capita income from a unique data set that I construct, which features prices of 245 identical goods sold in 29 European, Asian, and North American markets via the Internet by Spain's second largest apparel manufacturer—Mango. I find that doubling a destination's per capita income results in an 18% increase in the price of identical items sold there. Per capita income differences account for a third, whereas shipping cost differences can explain up to a third of the cross-country price variations of identical items purchased via the Internet by consumers who do not take advantage of quantity discounts. The price elasticity estimates compare favourably to estimates that I obtain from a standard data set that features prices across retail locations around the world, suggesting that variable mark-ups play a key role in accounting for observed cross-country differences in prices of tradables.

Suggested Citation

  • Ina Simonovska, 2015. "Income Differences and Prices of Tradables: Insights from an Online Retailer," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(4), pages 1612-1656.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:82:y:2015:i:4:p:1612-1656.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    LOP failure; Variable mark-ups; Non-homothetic preferences; Online retail;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms

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