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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. Bernard, Andrew B. & Redding, Stephen J. & Schott, Peter K., 2004. "Comparative Advantage and Heterogenous Firms," CEPR Discussion Papers 4622, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. 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.
  3. Lawless, Martina, 2007. "Firm Export Dynamics and the Geography of Trade," Research Technical Papers 2/RT/07, Central Bank of Ireland.
  4. repec:rus:hseeco:122439 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum & Francis Kramarz, 2004. "Dissecting trade: firms, industries, and export destinations," Staff Report 332, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  6. Bernard, Andrew B. & Jensen, J Bradford & Redding, Stephen J. & Schott, Peter K., 2007. "Firms in International Trade," CEPR Discussion Papers 6277, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Andrew B. Bernard & Stephen J. Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2011. "Multiproduct Firms and Trade Liberalization," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1271-1318.
  8. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2004. "Trade Costs," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(3), pages 691-751, September.
  9. Samuel S. Kortum, 1997. "Research, Patenting, and Technological Change," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(6), pages 1389-1420, November.
  10. 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.
  11. Elhanan Helpman & Marc J. Melitz & Stephen R. Yeaple, 2003. "Export versus FDI," NBER Working Papers 9439, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2003. "Gravity with Gravitas: A Solution to the Border Puzzle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 170-192, March.
  13. Mark J. Melitz, 2002. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," NBER Working Papers 8881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
  15. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
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