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Global Sourcing of Heterogeneous Firms: Theory and Evidence

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  • Wilhelm Kohler
  • Marcel Smolka

Abstract

This paper investigates the role of firm productivity in drawing firm boundaries in global sourcing. Our analysis focuses on how productivity affects the allocation of ownership rights between the headquarter of a firm and an intermediate input supplier (vertical integration vs. outsourcing), as well as the location of intermediate input production (offshore vs. domestic). Unlike previous work, we allow for a fully flexible productivity effect with varying magnitude and sign across different industries. Our estimation strategy is motivated by the canonical economic model of sourcing due to Antràs & Helpman (2004). This model invokes the property rights theory of the firm in order to pin down firm boundaries as the outcome of an interaction between firm heterogeneity and the industry’s sourcing intensity (i.e. the importance of inputs sourced from suppliers relative to headquarter inputs). We demonstrate that, at the level of the firm, the model implies a productivity effect that varies not just in magnitude (and potentially non-monotonically), but also in sign with the sourcing intensity of the industry. To estimate the effects empirically, we use Spanish firm-level data from the Encuesta sobre Estrategias Empresariales (ESEE). We find a pattern of effects whereby productivity stimulates vertical integration in industries of low sourcing intensity, but favors outsourcing in industries of high sourcing intensity. Moreover, we find that productivity boosts offshoring throughout all industries, with the effect increasing monotonically in the sourcing intensity. Our results lend strong empirical support to the property rights view of the firm in the global economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Wilhelm Kohler & Marcel Smolka, 2015. "Global Sourcing of Heterogeneous Firms: Theory and Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 5184, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_5184
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp5184.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Wilhelm K. Kohler & Marcel Smolka, 2012. "Global Sourcing: Evidence from Spanish Firm-Level Data," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Quantitative Analysis Of Newly Evolving Patterns Of International Trade Fragmentation, Offshoring of Activities, and Vertical Intra-Industry Trade, chapter 4, pages 139-193 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    2. Pol Antràs & Davin Chor, 2013. "Organizing the Global Value Chain," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(6), pages 2127-2204, November.
    3. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-1158, December.
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    6. Becker, Sascha O. & Ekholm, Karolina & Muendler, Marc-Andreas, 2013. "Offshoring and the onshore composition of tasks and skills," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 91-106.
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    25. Kohler, Wilhelm & Smolka, Marcel, 2014. "Global sourcing and firm selection," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 124(3), pages 411-415.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:bla:worlde:v:40:y:2017:i:9:p:1775-1806 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Eppinger, Peter S. & Kukharskyy, Bohdan, 2017. "Contracting institutions and firm boundaries," University of Tuebingen Working Papers in Economics and Finance 100, University of Tuebingen, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    global sourcing; incomplete contracts; firm productivity; firm-level data;

    JEL classification:

    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F19 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Other
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production

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