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The Risk Content of Exports: A Portfolio View of International Trade

In: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2011

  • Julian di Giovanni
  • Andrei A. Levchenko

It has been suggested that countries whose exports are in especially risky sectors will experience higher output volatility. This paper develops a measure of the riskiness of a country's pattern of export specialization, and illustrates its features across countries and over time. The exercise reveals large cross-country differences in the risk content of exports. This measure is strongly correlated with the volatility of terms-of-trade, total exports, and output, but does not exhibit a close relationship to the level of income, overall trade openness, or other country characteristics. We then propose an explanation for what determines the risk content of exports, based on the theoretical literature exemplified by Turnovsky (1974). Countries with a comparative advantage in safe sectors or a strong enough comparative advantage in risky sectors will specialize, whereas countries whose comparative advantage in risky sectors is not too strong will diversify their export structure to insure against export income risk. We use both non-parametric and semiparametric techniques to demonstrate that these theoretical predictions are strongly supported by the data.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Jeffrey Frankel & Christopher Pissarides, 2012. "NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2011," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fran11-1, May.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12492.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12492
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.orgEmail:


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    1. Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & Bent E. Sorensen & Oved Yosha, 2000. "Risk sharing and industrial specialization ; regional and international evidence," Research Working Paper RWP 00-06, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
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    10. Reinhart, Carmen & Kaminsky, Graciela & Vegh, Carlos, 2004. "When it rains, it pours: Procyclical capital flows and macroeconomic policies," MPRA Paper 13883, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Arnaud Costinot & Dave Donaldson & Ivana Komunjer, 2010. "What Goods Do Countries Trade? A Quantitative Exploration of Ricardo's Ideas," NBER Working Papers 16262, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    13. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521812832 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Andrei A. Levchenko & Julian di Giovanni, 2008. "Trade Openness and Volatility," IMF Working Papers 08/146, International Monetary Fund.
    15. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521012263 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Ehsan U. Choudhri & Lawrence L. Schembri, 2002. "Productivity performance and international competitiveness: an old test reconsidered," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(2), pages 341-362, May.
    17. Robert C. Feenstra & Robert E. Lipsey & Haiyan Deng & Alyson C. Ma & Hengyong Mo, 2005. "World Trade Flows: 1962-2000," NBER Working Papers 11040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Marco Terrones & Eswar Prasad & M. Ayhan Kose, 2003. "Financial Integration and Macroeconomic Volatility," IMF Working Papers 03/50, International Monetary Fund.
    19. Golub, Stephen S & Hsieh, Chang-Tai, 2000. "Classical Ricardian Theory of Comparative Advantage Revisited," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 8(2), pages 221-34, May.
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    21. Bejan, Maria, 2006. "Trade Openness and Output Volatility," MPRA Paper 2759, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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