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Income Differences and Prices of Tradables

  • Ina Simonovska

    (Department of Economics, University of California Davis)

Empirical studies find a strong positive relationship between a country’s per-capita income and price level of final tradable goods. Among alternative explanations of this observation, I focus on variable mark-ups by firms. Mark-ups that vary with destinations’ incomes are evident from a clothing manufacturer’s online catalogue featuring unit prices of identical goods sold in 24 countries. Such price discrimination on the basis of income suggests that firms exploit lower price elasticity of demand for identical goods in richer countries. In order to capture that, I introduce non-homothetic preferences in a model of trade with product differentiation and heterogeneity in firm productivity. The model helps bring theory and data closer along a key dimension: it generates positively related prices and incomes, while preserving desirable features of firm behavior and trade flows of existing frameworks. Quantitatively, the model suggests that variable mark-ups can account for as much as a third of the observed positive relationship between prices of tradables and income across a large sample of countries.

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Paper provided by University of California, Davis, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1015.

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Length: 48
Date of creation: 11 Nov 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cda:wpaper:10-15
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  1. Atish R. Ghosh & Holger C. Wolf, 1994. "Pricing in International Markets: Lessons From The Economist," NBER Working Papers 4806, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ariel Burstein & Andrew Atkeson, 2005. "Trade Costs, Pricing to Market, and International Relative Prices," 2005 Meeting Papers 201, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Mario J. Crucini & Mototsugu Shintani, 2006. "Persistence in Law-Of-One-Price Deviations: Evidence from Micro-Data," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0616, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  4. Hunter, Linda, 1991. "The contribution of nonhomothetic preferences to trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3-4), pages 345-358, May.
  5. Costas Arkolakis & Svetlana Demidova & Peter J. Klenow & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 2008. "Endogenous Variety and the Gains from Trade," NBER Working Papers 13933, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Paul Krugman, 1986. "Pricing to Market when the Exchange Rate Changes," NBER Working Papers 1926, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Melitz, Marc, 2008. "Market Size, Trade, and Productivity," Scholarly Articles 3229096, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  9. Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 205-229.
  10. Goldberg, Pinelopi Koujianou & Verboven, Frank, 1998. "The Evolution of Price Dispersion in the European Car Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 2029, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Bergin, Paul R. & Feenstra, Robert C., 2001. "Pricing-to-market, staggered contracts, and real exchange rate persistence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 333-359, August.
  12. Jackson, Laurence Fraser, 1984. "Hierarchic Demand and the Engel Curve for Variety," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(1), pages 8-15, February.
  13. Thomas Chaney, 2008. "Distorted Gravity: The Intensive and Extensive Margins of International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1707-21, September.
  14. Feenstra, Robert C., 2003. "A homothetic utility function for monopolistic competition models, without constant price elasticity," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 79-86, January.
  15. Erzo G. J. Luttmer, 2007. "Selection, Growth, and the Size Distribution of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1103-1144.
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