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An Anatomy of International Trade: Evidence from French Firms

  • Eaton, Jonathan
  • Kortum, Samuel S
  • Kramarz, Francis

We examine the sales of French manufacturing firms in 113 destinations, including France itself. Several regularities stand out: (1) the number of French firms selling to a market, relative to French market share, increases systematically with market size; (2) sales distributions are very similar across markets of very different size and extent of French participation; (3) average sales in France rise very systematically with selling to less popular markets and to more markets. We adopt a model of firm heterogeneity and export participation which we estimate to match moments of the French data using the method of simulated moments. The results imply that nearly half the variation across firms that we see in market entry can be attributed to a single dimension of underlying firm heterogeneity, efficiency. Conditional on entry, underlying efficiency accounts for a much smaller variation in sales in any given market. Parameter estimates imply that fixed costs eat up a little more than half of gross profits. We use our results to simulate the effects of a counterfactual decline in bilateral trade barriers on French firms. While total French sales rise by around US$16 billion, sales by the top decile of firms rise by nearly US$23 billion. Every lower decile experiences a drop in sales, due to selling less at home or exiting altogether.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7111.

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Date of creation: Jan 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7111
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  1. Krugman, Paul, 1980. "Scale Economies, Product Differentiation, and the Pattern of Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(5), pages 950-59, December.
  2. Bernard, Andrew B. & Bradford Jensen, J., 1999. "Exceptional exporter performance: cause, effect, or both?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 1-25, February.
  3. Alvarez, Fernando & Lucas, Robert Jr., 2007. "General equilibrium analysis of the Eaton-Kortum model of international trade," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(6), pages 1726-1768, September.
  4. Andrew B. Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jensen & Samuel Kortum, 2003. "Plants and Productivity in International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1268-1290, September.
  5. Erzo G. J. Luttmer, 2007. "Selection, Growth, and the Size Distribution of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1103-1144, 08.
  6. Melitz, Marc J, 2002. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," CEPR Discussion Papers 3381, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum & Francis Kramarz, 2004. "Dissecting Trade: Firms, Industries, and Export Destinations," NBER Working Papers 10344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Xavier Gabaix & Rustam Ibragimov, 2011. "Rank - 1 / 2: A Simple Way to Improve the OLS Estimation of Tail Exponents," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(1), pages 24-39, January.
  9. Costas Arkolakis, 2010. "Market Penetration Costs and the New Consumers Margin in International Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(6), pages 1151 - 1199.
  10. Bee Yan Aw & Sukkyun Chung & Mark J. Roberts, 1998. "Productivity and the Decision to Export: Micro Evidence from Taiwan and South Korea," NBER Working Papers 6558, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Horowitz, Joel L., 2001. "The Bootstrap," Handbook of Econometrics, in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 52, pages 3159-3228 Elsevier.
  12. Goffe, William L. & Ferrier, Gary D. & Rogers, John, 1994. "Global optimization of statistical functions with simulated annealing," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1-2), pages 65-99.
  13. Biscourp, Pierre & Kramarz, Francis, 2007. "Employment, skill structure and international trade: Firm-level evidence for France," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 22-51, May.
  14. Roberts, Mark J & Tybout, James R, 1997. "The Decision to Export in Colombia: An Empirical Model of Entry with Sunk Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 545-64, September.
  15. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
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