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What is Firm Heterogeneity in Trade Models? The Role of Quality, Scope, Markups, and Cost

Listed author(s):
  • Hottman, Colin
  • Redding, Stephen J.
  • Weinstein, David E.

We estimate a structural model of heterogeneous multiproduct firms to examine the sources of firm heterogeneity emphasized in the recent trade and macro literatures. Using Nielsen barcode data on prices and sales, we estimate elasticities of substitution within and between firms, and use the estimated model to recover unobserved qualities, marginal costs and markups. We find that variation in firm quality and product scope explains at least four fifths of the variation in firm sales. Most firms are well approximated by the monopolistic competition benchmark of constant markups, but the largest firms that account for most of aggregate sales depart substantially from this benchmark. Although the output of multiproduct firms is differentiated, cannibalization is quantitatively important for the largest firms. This imperfect substitutability of products within firms, and the fact that larger firms supply more products than smaller firms, implies that standard productivity measures are not independent of demand system assumptions and probably dramatically understate the relative productivity of the largest firms.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 10133.

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Date of creation: Sep 2014
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10133
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  1. Robert C. Feenstra, 2014. "Restoring the Product Variety and Pro-competitive Gains from Trade with Heterogeneous Firms and Bounded Productivity," NBER Working Papers 19833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Christian Broda & David E. Weinstein, 2006. "Globalization and the Gains From Variety," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 541-585.
  3. Costas Arkolakis & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2010. "The Extensive Margin of Exporting Products: A Firm-level Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 3309, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Ana Cecília Fieler & Marcela Eslava & Daniel Xu, 2014. "Trade, Skills, and Quality Upgrading: A Theory with Evidence from Colombia," NBER Working Papers 19992, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Costas Arkolakis & Arnaud Costinot & Dave Donaldson & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 2015. "The Elusive Pro-Competitive Effects of Trade," NBER Working Papers 21370, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Mark J. Roberts & Daniel Yi Xu & Xiaoyan Fan & Shengxing Zhang, 2012. "The Role of Firm Factors in Demand, Cost, and Export Market Selection for Chinese Footwear Producers," NBER Working Papers 17725, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Xavier Gabaix, 2011. "The Granular Origins of Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(3), pages 733-772, May.
  8. Itai Agur, 2010. "Trade Liberalization, Firm Selection, and Variety Growth," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(3), pages 582-594, August.
  9. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
  10. Costas Arkolakis & Arnaud Costinot & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 2012. "New Trade Models, Same Old Gains?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 94-130, February.
  11. Judith A. Chevalier & Anil K. Kashyap & Peter E. Rossi, 2003. "Why Don't Prices Rise During Periods of Peak Demand? Evidence from Scanner Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 15-37, March.
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