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Gravity or Dummies? The Limits of Identification in Gravity Estimations

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  • Cecília Hornok

Abstract

Trade economists often estimate gravity equations of international trade with fixed effects. Anderson and van Wincoop (2003, American Economic Review 93, 170–192) have shown the importance of controlling for multilateral trade resistances when estimating a gravity equation. This can be done by including exporter-time and importer-time fixed effects in a panel or exporter and importer fixed effects in a cross section estimation. I argue that this approach limits the identifiability of policy parameters that capture the effect of certain ”club memberships” (EU, NAFTA, euro area, WTO, etc.) on trade flows. I show that, in the baseline case, only one effect can be identified, which precludes, for example, the estimation of separate effects on the exporter and the importer side. The magnitude, and even the sign, of the estimated club effect are very sensitive to the precise identification assumptions, which are often left unspecified in empirical studies. The underlying problem is that club membership provides some, but very little bilateral variation. When heterogeneous club effects are to be identified, the membership dummies can become perfectly collinear with the fixed effects. Empirical researchers may not be aware of the lack of identification, because standard estimation techniques often permit them to run perfectly collinear regressions. I illustrate the findings with estimating the effect of EU enlargement in 2004 on the trade flows of new and old members. Finally, I discuss potential solutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Cecília Hornok, 2011. "Gravity or Dummies? The Limits of Identification in Gravity Estimations," CeFiG Working Papers 15, Center for Firms in the Global Economy, revised 26 Sep 2011.
  • Handle: RePEc:cfg:cfigwp:15
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    3. Erik Marel & Ben Shepherd, 2013. "Services Trade, Regulation and Regional Integration: Evidence from Sectoral Data," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(11), pages 1393-1405, November.
    4. Sébastien Miroudot & Ben Shepherd, 2014. "The Paradox of ‘Preferences’: Regional Trade Agreements and Trade Costs in Services," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(12), pages 1751-1772, December.
    5. Cipollina, Maria Pina & De Benedictis, Luca & Salvatici, Luca & Vicarelli, Claudio, 2016. "Policy Measurement and Multilateral Resistance in Gravity Models," MPRA Paper 75255, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Frederik Stender, 2018. "MERCOSUR in gravity: an accounting approach to analyzing its trade effects," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 501-522, April.
    7. P. Montalbano & S. Nenci, 2014. "Assessing the trade impact of the European Neighbourhood Policy on the EU-MED Free Trade Area," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(7), pages 730-740, March.
    8. Andrea Saayman & Paolo Figini & Silvio Cassella, 2016. "The influence of formal trade agreements and informal economic cooperation on international tourism flows," Tourism Economics, , vol. 22(6), pages 1274-1300, December.
    9. Thomas Kopp & Sören Prehn & Bernhard Brümmer, 2016. "Preference Erosion – The Case of Everything But Arms and Sugar," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(9), pages 1339-1359, September.
    10. Matyas, Laszlo & Balazsi, Laszlo, 2011. "The estimation of three-dimensional fixed effects panel data models," MPRA Paper 34976, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Lavinia Rotili, 2014. "The Euro effects on intermediate and final exports," Working Papers 7/14, Sapienza University of Rome, DISS.
    12. Pierluigi Montalbano & Silvia Nenci & Laura Dell'Agostino, 2019. "A non-parametric re-assessment of the trade effects of the euro using value added data," Working Papers 9/19, Sapienza University of Rome, DISS.

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