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Gravity without Apology: The Science of Elasticities, Distance, and Trade

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  • Céline Carrère
  • Monika Mrázová
  • J. Peter Neary

Abstract

Gravity as both fact and theory is one of the great success stories of recent research on international trade, and has featured prominently in the policy debate over Brexit. We first review the facts, noting the overwhelming evidence that trade tends to fall with distance. We then introduce some expository tools for understanding CES theories of gravity as a simple general-equilibrium system. Next, we point out some anomalies with the theory: mounting evidence against constant trade elasticities, and implausible predictions for bilateral trade balances. Finally, we sketch an approach based on subconvex gravity as a promising direction to resolving them.

Suggested Citation

  • Céline Carrère & Monika Mrázová & J. Peter Neary, 2020. "Gravity without Apology: The Science of Elasticities, Distance, and Trade," CESifo Working Paper Series 8160, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_8160
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert Zymek, 2018. "Bilateral Trade Imbalances," 2018 Meeting Papers 1117, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. 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.
    3. Alabrese, Eleonora & Becker, Sascha O. & Fetzer, Thiemo & Novy, Dennis, 2019. "Who voted for Brexit? Individual and regional data combined," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 132-150.
    4. Bergstrand, Jeffrey H, 1985. "The Gravity Equation in International Trade: Some Microeconomic Foundations and Empirical Evidence," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(3), pages 474-481, August.
    5. Steven Brakman & Harry Garretsen & Tristan Kohl, 2018. "Consequences of Brexit and options for a ‘Global Britain’," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(1), pages 55-72, March.
    6. Ellen R. McGrattan & Andrea Waddle, 2020. "The Impact of Brexit on Foreign Investment and Production," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 76-103, January.
    7. Davies, Ronald B. & Studnicka, Zuzanna, 2018. "The heterogeneous impact of Brexit: Early indications from the FTSE," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 1-17.
    8. Harald Badinger & Aurélien Fichet de Clairfontaine, 2019. "Trade balance dynamics and exchange rates: In search of the J‐curve using a structural gravity approach," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(4), pages 1268-1293, September.
    9. Deaton, Angus S & Muellbauer, John, 1980. "An Almost Ideal Demand System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 312-326, June.
    10. Anderson, James E, 1979. "A Theoretical Foundation for the Gravity Equation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(1), pages 106-116, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wim Naudé & Martin Cameron, 2021. "Export-Led Growth after COVID-19: The Case of Portugal," Notas Económicas, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, issue 52, pages 7-53, July.
    2. Minford, Patrick & Xu, Yongdeng & Dong, Xue, 2021. "Testing competing world trade models against the facts of world trade," Cardiff Economics Working Papers E2021/20, Cardiff University, Cardiff Business School, Economics Section.
    3. Chen, Gang & Dong, Xue & Minford, Patrick & Qiu,Guanhua & Xu, Yongdeng & Xu, Zequn, 2021. "Computable General Equilibrium Models of Trade in the Modern Trade Policy Debate," Cardiff Economics Working Papers E2021/14, Cardiff University, Cardiff Business School, Economics Section.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    bilateral trade balances; Brexit; elasticity of trade to distance; quantile regression; structural gravity and trade; subconvex demands;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F17 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Forecasting and Simulation
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General

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