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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. 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.
  2. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2000. "Gravity with Gravitas: A Solution to the Border Puzzle," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 485, Boston College Department of Economics.
  3. Samuel S. Kortum, 1997. "Research, Patenting, and Technological Change," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(6), pages 1389-1420, November.
  4. Rubinstein, Yona & Helpman, Elhanan & Melitz, Marc, 2008. "Estimating Trade Flows: Trading Partners and Trading Volumes," Scholarly Articles 3228230, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2004. "Trade Costs," NBER Working Papers 10480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2007. "Firms in International Trade," CEP Discussion Papers dp0795, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  7. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum & Francis Kramarz, 2004. "Dissecting Trade: Firms, Industries, and Export Destinations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 150-154, May.
  8. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
  9. Eckel, Carsten & Neary, J Peter, 2006. "Multi-Product Firms and Flexible Manufacturing in the Global Economy," CEPR Discussion Papers 5941, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf's Law for Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767.
  11. 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.
  12. Andrew B. Bernard & Stephen J. Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2006. "Multi-Product Firms and Trade Liberalization," NBER Working Papers 12782, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. repec:rus:hseeco:122439 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Lawless, Martina, 2007. "Firm Export Dynamics and the Geography of Trade," MPRA Paper 10008, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  15. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
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