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A Balls-and-Bins Model of Trade

  • Roc Armenter
  • Miklós Koren

A number of stylized facts have been documented about the extensive margin of trade---which firms export, and how many products they send to how many destinations. We argue that the sparse nature of trade data is crucial to understanding these stylized facts. Typically the number of observations---that is, total shipments---is low relative to the number of possible classifications---e.g., countries and product codes. We propose a statistical model to account for the sparsity of trade data. We formalize the assignment of shipments to categories as balls falling into bins. The balls-and-bins model quantitatively reproduces the prevalence of zero product-level trade flows across export destinations. The model also accounts for firm-level facts: as in the data, most firms export a single product to a single country but these firms represent a tiny fraction of total exports. In contrast, the balls-and-bins model cannot reproduce the small fraction of exporters among U.S. firms. We discuss the implications for identifying the relevant model of the extensive margin in trade.

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Paper provided by Center for Firms in the Global Economy in its series CeFiG Working Papers with number 3.

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Date of creation: 01 May 2008
Date of revision: 01 May 2008
Handle: RePEc:cfg:cfigwp:3
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cefig.eu/

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  1. Ghosh, Sucharita & Yamarik, Steven, 2004. "Are regional trading arrangements trade creating?: An application of extreme bounds analysis," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 369-395, July.
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  9. Laszlo Halpern & Miklos Koren & Adam Szeidl, 2006. "Imports and Productivity," 2006 Meeting Papers 796, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Ellison, G. & Glaeser, E.L., 1994. "Geographic Concentration in U.S. Manufacturing Industries: A Dartboard Approach," Working papers 94-27, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  11. Hummels, David & Lugovskyy, Volodymyr & Skiba, Alexandre, 2009. "The trade reducing effects of market power in international shipping," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 84-97, May.
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  13. Jon Haveman & David Hummels, 2004. "Alternative hypotheses and the volume of trade: the gravity equation and the extent of specialization," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 37(1), pages 199-218, February.
  14. Ghosh, Sucharita & Yamarik, Steven, 2004. "Does trade creation measure up? A reexamination of the effects of regional trading arrangements," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 213-219, February.
  15. Simon J. Evenett & Wolfgang Keller, 2002. "On Theories Explaining the Success of the Gravity Equation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(2), pages 281-316, April.
  16. Rubinstein, Yona & Helpman, Elhanan & Melitz, Marc, 2008. "Estimating Trade Flows: Trading Partners and Trading Volumes," Scholarly Articles 3228230, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  17. Jože P. Damijan & Sašo Polanec & Janez Prašnikar, 2007. "Outward FDI and Productivity: Micro-evidence from Slovenia," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 30(1), pages 135-155, 01.
  18. László Halpern & Miklós Koren & Adam Szeidl, 2011. "Imported Inputs and Productivity," CeFiG Working Papers 8, Center for Firms in the Global Economy, revised 16 Sep 2011.
  19. Carolyn L. Evans & James Harrigan, 2005. "Distance, Time, and Specialization: Lean Retailing in General Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 292-313, March.
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