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Are Shocks to the Terms of Trade Shocks to Productivity?


  • Timothy J. Kehoe

    (University of Minnesota)

  • Kim J. Ruhl

    (University of Texas, Austin)


International trade is frequently thought of as a production technology in which the inputs are exports and the outputs are imports. Exports are transformed into imports at the rate of the price of exports relative to the price of imports: the reciprocal of the terms of trade. Cast this way, a change in the terms of trade acts as a productivity shock. Or does it? In this paper, we show that this line of reasoning cannot work in standard models. Starting with a simple model and then generalizing, we show that changes in the terms of trade have no first-order effect on productivity when output is measured as chain-weighted real GDP. The terms of trade do affect real income and consumption in a country, and we show how measures of real income change with the terms of trade at business cycle frequencies and during financial crises. (Copyright: Elsevier)

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy J. Kehoe & Kim J. Ruhl, 2008. "Are Shocks to the Terms of Trade Shocks to Productivity?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(4), pages 804-819, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:issued:07-40
    DOI: 10.1016/

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kehoe, Timothy J. & Ruhl, Kim J., 2009. "Sudden stops, sectoral reallocations, and the real exchange rate," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2), pages 235-249, July.
    2. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
    3. Diewart, W Erwin & Morrison, Catherine J, 1986. "Adjusting Output and Productivity Indexes for Changes in the Terms of Trade," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 96(383), pages 659-679, September.
    4. Robert C. Feenstra & Alan Heston & Marcel P. Timmer & Haiyan Deng, 2009. "Estimating Real Production and Expenditures across Nations: A Proposal for Improving the Penn World Tables," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 201-212, February.
    5. Felipe Meza & Erwan Quintin, 2005. "Financial crises and total factor productivity," Center for Latin America Working Papers 0105, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
    6. Easterly, William & Kremer, Michael & Pritchett, Lant & Summers, Lawrence H., 1993. "Good policy or good luck?: Country growth performance and temporary shocks," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 459-483, December.
    7. Hamilton, James D, 1983. "Oil and the Macroeconomy since World War II," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 228-248, April.
    8. Rogerson, Richard & Wallenius, Johanna, 2009. "Micro and macro elasticities in a life cycle model with taxes," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(6), pages 2277-2292, November.
    9. Enrique G. Mendoza, 2006. "Endogenous Sudden Stops in a Business Cycle Model with Collateral Constraints:A Fisherian Deflation of Tobin's Q," NBER Working Papers 12564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Paolo Mauro & Torbjorn I. Becker, 2006. "Output Drops and the Shocks That Matter," IMF Working Papers 06/172, International Monetary Fund.
    11. Kohli, Ulrich, 2004. "Real GDP, real domestic income, and terms-of-trade changes," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 83-106, January.
    12. Timothy J. Kehoe & Kim J. Ruhl, 2005. "Is Switzerland in a Great Depression?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 8(3), pages 759-775, July.
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    More about this item


    Terms of trade; Gross domestic product; Total factor productivity; National income accounting;

    JEL classification:

    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies


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