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Exports, Borders, Distance, and Plant Size

  • Thomas J. Holmes
  • John J. Stevens

The fact that large manufacturing plants export relatively more than small plants has been at the foundation of much work in the international trade literature. We examine this fact using Census micro data on plant shipments from the Commodity Flow Survey. We show the fact is not entirely an international trade phenomenon; part of it can be accounted for by the effect of distance, distinct from any border effect. Export destinations tend to be further than domestic destinations, and large plants tend to ship further distances even to domestic locations, as compared with small plants. We develop an extension of the Melitz (2003) model and use it to set up an analysis with model interpretations of ratios between large plant and small plant shipments that can be calculated with the data. We obtain a decomposition of the overall ratio into a term that varies with distance, holding fixed the border, and a term that varies with the border, holding fixed the distance. The distance term accounts for more than half of the overall difference.

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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2010/CES-WP-10-13.pdf
File Function: First version, 2010
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Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 10-13.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:10-13
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  1. Milgrom, P. & Shannon, C., 1991. "Monotone Comparative Statics," Papers 11, Stanford - Institute for Thoretical Economics.
  2. Costas Arkolakis, 2010. "Market Penetration Costs and the New Consumers Margin in International Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(6), pages 1151 - 1199.
  3. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Peter K. Schott, 2005. "Importers, Exporters, and Multinationals: A Portrait of Firms in the U.S. that Trade Goods," Working Paper Series WP05-10, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  4. 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.
  5. John F. Helliwell, 1996. "Do National Borders Matter for Quebec's Trade?," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(3), pages 507-22, August.
  6. Thomas J. Holmes & John J. Stevens, 2010. "An Alternative Theory of the Plant Size Distribution with an Application to Trade," Working Papers 10-10, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  7. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2004. "Trade Costs," NBER Working Papers 10480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Timothy Dunne & J. Bradford Jensen & Mark J. Roberts, 2009. "Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number dunn05-1.
  9. Charles Engel & John H. Rogers, 1995. "How wide is the border?," Research Working Paper 95-09, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
  10. 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.
  11. Melitz, Marc J, 2002. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," CEPR Discussion Papers 3381, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Richard Baldwin & James Harrigan, 2007. "Zeros, Quality and Space: Trade Theory and Trade Evidence," NBER Working Papers 13214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Andrew B. Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jensen & Samuel Kortum, 2000. "Plants and Productivity in International Trade," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 105, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  14. McCallum, John, 1995. "National Borders Matter: Canada-U.S. Regional Trade Patterns," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 615-23, June.
  15. Russell Hillberry & David Hummels, 2002. "Intra-national Home Bias: Some Explanations," NBER Working Papers 9022, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Russell Hillberry & David Hummels, 2005. "Trade Responses to Geographic Frictions: A Decomposition Using Micro-Data," NBER Working Papers 11339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Thomas J. Holmes & John J. Stevens, 2002. "Geographic Concentration and Establishment Scale," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(4), pages 682-690, November.
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