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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. Dornbusch, Rudiger & Fischer, Stanley & Samuelson, Paul A, 1977. "Comparative Advantage, Trade, and Payments in a Ricardian Model with a Continuum of Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 823-39, December.
  3. 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.
  4. Richard Baldwin & James Harrigan, 2007. "Zeros, Quality and Space: Trade Theory and Trade Evidence," NBER Working Papers 13214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  11. Juan Carlos Hallak, 2006. "A Product-Quality View of the Linder Hypothesis," NBER Working Papers 12712, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Ina Simonovska, 2009. "Income Differences and Prices of Tradables," 2009 Meeting Papers 692, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Tarasov, Alexander, 2012. "Trade Liberalization and Welfare Inequality: A Demand-Based Approach," Munich Reprints in Economics 19576, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  14. Jun Ishii & Kei-Mu Yi, 1997. "The growth of world trade," Research Paper 9718, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  15. Muhammed Dalgin & Devashish Mitra & Vitor Trindade, 2004. "Inequality, Nonhomothetic Preferences, and Trade: A Gravity Approach," NBER Working Papers 10800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Guillaume Gaulier & Soledad Zignago, 2010. "BACI: International Trade Database at the Product-Level. The 1994-2007 Version," Working Papers 2010-23, CEPII research center.
  17. Pablo Fajgelbaum & Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2011. "Income Distribution, Product Quality, and International Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(4), pages 721 - 765.
  18. Hallak, Juan Carlos, 2006. "Product quality and the direction of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 238-265, January.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Ana Cecília Fieler, 2011. "Nonhomotheticity and Bilateral Trade: Evidence and a Quantitative Explanation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(4), pages 1069-1101, 07.
  22. 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.
  23. Amit Khandelwal, 2010. "The Long and Short (of) Quality Ladders," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(4), pages 1450-1476.
  24. Pablo D. Fajgelbaum, 2011. "Income Distribution, Product Quality and International Trade," 2011 Meeting Papers 415, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  25. Eric A. Verhoogen, 2008. "Trade, Quality Upgrading, and Wage Inequality in the Mexican Manufacturing Sector," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(2), pages 489-530, 05.
  26. Juan Carlos Hallak & Peter K. Schott, 2008. "Estimating Cross-Country Differences in Product Quality," NBER Working Papers 13807, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. 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.
  28. Brooks, Eileen L., 2006. "Why don't firms export more? Product quality and Colombian plants," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 160-178, June.
  29. Choi, Yo Chul & Hummels, David & Xiang, Chong, 2009. "Explaining import quality: The role of the income distribution," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(2), pages 293-303, July.
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