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A Note on Trade Costs and Distance

  • Lawless, Martina

    (Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland)

  • Whelan, Karl

    (University College Dublin)

One of the most famous and robust findings in international economics is that distance has a strong negative effect on trade. Bernard, Jensen, Redding, and Schott (2007) discuss how this can be decomposed into an effect due to the number of products and an effect due to average exports per product. Using US firm-level data, they show that distance has a strong negative effect on the number of products exported. However, they find that the intensive margin - average sales of individual products - is increasing with distance. We show that this apparently puzzling finding is consistent with models featuring firm heterogeneity in productivity and fixed costs associated with exporting to each market. We also show how evidence of this type can be used to derive new estimates of how distance affects fixed and variable trade costs and how these two costs combine to generate the distance effect on trade.

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Paper provided by Central Bank of Ireland in its series Research Technical Papers with number 7/RT/07.

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Length: 17 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cbi:wpaper:7/rt/07
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  1. Melitz, Marc J, 2002. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," CEPR Discussion Papers 3381, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
  3. Andrew B. Bernard & Stephen Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2006. "Multi-Product Firms and Trade Liberalization," CEP Discussion Papers dp0769, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  4. repec:rus:hseeco:122439 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Elhanan Helpman & Marc J. Melitz & Stephen R. Yeaple, 2003. "Export versus FDI," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1998, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  6. Andrew B. Bernard & Stephen Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Comparative advantage and heterogeneous firms," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3700, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  7. Peter Neary & Carsten Eckel, 2006. "Multi-Product Firms and Flexible Manufacturing in the Global Economy," Economics Series Working Papers 292, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  8. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
  9. Samuel S. Kortum, 1997. "Research, Patenting, and Technological Change," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(6), pages 1389-1420, November.
  10. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum & Francis Kramarz, 2004. "Dissecting Trade: Firms, Industries, and Export Destinations," NBER Working Papers 10344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2001. "Gravity with Gravitas: A Solution to the Border Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 8079, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2004. "Trade Costs," NBER Working Papers 10480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Elhanan Helpman & Marc Melitz & Yona Rubinstein, 2008. "Estimating Trade Flows: Trading Partners and Trading Volumes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(2), pages 441-487, 05.
  14. Lawless, Martina, 2007. "Firm Export Dynamics and the Geography of Trade," Research Technical Papers 2/RT/07, Central Bank of Ireland.
  15. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen J. Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2007. "Firms in International Trade," NBER Working Papers 13054, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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