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Love for Quality, Comparative Advantage, and Trade

  • Esteban Jaimovich
  • Vincenzo Merella

We propose a theory of trade in which comparative advantages reveal themselves gradually over the path of development. Following the Ricardian tradition, countries specialise and export the set of goods they are able to produce at relatively lower cost given their exogenous initial endowments. However, we introduce two new features into a Ricardian trade model with horizontally and vertically differentiated goods. First, individuals have nonhomothetic preferences in that their willingness to pay for quality rises with their income. Second, heterogeneities in productivity become more pronounced at higher levels of quality of production. As a result, our theory predicts that the scope for international trade widens and productive specialisation increases as real incomes grow and wealthier consumers raise the quality of their consumption baskets. Our predictions find empirical support in a number tests performed using bilateral trade data at the product level.

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Paper provided by Collegio Carlo Alberto in its series Carlo Alberto Notebooks with number 216.

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Length: 47 pages
Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision: 2012
Handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:216
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  2. Paulo Bastos & Joana Silva, . "The Quality of a Firm’s Exports: Where you Export to Matters," Discussion Papers 08/18, University of Nottingham, GEP.
  3. Kiminori Matsuyama, 2000. "A Ricardian Model with a Continuum of Goods under Nonhomothetic Preferences: Demand Complementarities, Income Distribution, and North-South Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(6), pages 1093-1120, December.
  4. R. Dornbusch & S. Fischer & P. A. Samuelson, 1976. "Comparative Advantage, Trade and Payments in a Ricardian Model With a Continuum of Goods," Working papers 178, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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  8. Alexander Tarasov, 2012. "Trade Liberalization and Welfare Inequality: A Demand-Based Approach," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(4), pages 1296-1317, December.
  9. Juan Carlos Hallak, 2010. "A Product-Quality View of the Linder Hypothesis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(3), pages 453-466, August.
  10. Flam, Harry & Helpman, Elhanan, 1987. "Vertical Product Differentiation and North-South Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 810-22, December.
  11. Esteban Jaimovich & Vincenzo Merella, 2012. "Quality Ladders In A Ricardian Model Of Trade With Nonhomothetic Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 908-937, 08.
  12. Pablo D. Fajgelbaum & Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2009. "Income Distribution, Product Quality, and International Trade," NBER Working Papers 15329, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Muhammed Dalgin & Vitor Trindade & Devashish Mitra, 2008. "Inequality, Nonhomothetic Preferences, and Trade: A Gravity Approach," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 747-774, January.
  14. Ina Simonovska, 2009. "Income Differences and Prices of Tradables," 2009 Meeting Papers 692, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  15. Markusen, James R, 1986. "Explaining the Volume of Trade: An Eclectic Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1002-11, December.
  16. Amit Khandelwal, 2010. "The Long and Short (of) Quality Ladders," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(4), pages 1450-1476.
  17. Alejandro Artopoulos & Daniel Friel & Juan Carlos Hallak, 2011. "Lifting the Domestic Veil: The Challenges of Exporting Differentiated Goods Across the Development Divide," NBER Working Papers 16947, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Thierry Mayer & Soledad Zignago, 2011. "Notes on CEPII’s distances measures: The GeoDist database," Working Papers 2011-25, CEPII research center.
  19. Claustre Bajona, 2004. "Specific Factors, Learning, and the Dynamics of Trade," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(2), pages 499-521, 05.
  20. Benedetti Fasil, Cristiana & Borota, Teodora, 2010. "World Trade Patterns and Prices: The Role of Productivity and Quality Heterogeneity," Working Paper Series 2010:7, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  21. Juan Carlos Hallak & Peter K. Schott, 2011. "Estimating Cross-Country Differences in Product Quality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 417-474.
  22. Choi, Yo Chul & Hummels, David & Xiang, Chong, 2009. "Explaining import quality: The role of the income distribution," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 265-275, April.
  23. Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Across-product Versus Within-product Specialization in International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 646-677, May.
  24. Jun Ishii & Kei-Mu Yi, 1997. "The growth of world trade," Research Paper 9718, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  25. Hallak, Juan Carlos, 2006. "Product quality and the direction of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 238-265, January.
  26. Stokey, Nancy L, 1991. "The Volume and Composition of Trade between Rich and Poor Countries," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(1), pages 63-80, January.
  27. Francois, Joseph F & Kaplan, Seth, 1996. "Aggregate Demand Shifts, Income Distribution, and the Linder Hypothesis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(2), pages 244-50, May.
  28. Ana Cecília Fieler, 2011. "Nonhomotheticity and Bilateral Trade: Evidence and a Quantitative Explanation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(4), pages 1069-1101, 07.
  29. Pablo D. Fajgelbaum, 2011. "Income Distribution, Product Quality and International Trade," 2011 Meeting Papers 415, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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