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Income distribution and vertical comparative advantage Theory and evidence

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  • Hélène LATZER

    () (BETA, Université de Strasbourg and Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales)

  • Florian MAYNERIS

    () (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES) and Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE))

Abstract

In this paper, we provide a general model discussing the impact of non-homothetic preferences on the vertical comparative advantage of countries, i.e. the existence of demand-based determinants of the quality content of production and exports. We show that while average income positively impacts the quality mix of a country’s exports, the impact of inequality depends on the shape of the curve describing the evolution of the income share devoted to high-quality varieties. Along levels of income where this curve is increasing and convex, inequality increases aggregate demand for high quality varieties, more and more rapidly along income. Our empirical results on the quality content of bilateral export flows within the enlarged EU confirm our theoretical predictions. We show that a country’s income distribution has a significant impact on the quality of its exports. Moreover, the impact of inequality on the quality of exports is all the more positive that the exporter is rich. Our estimations are robust to instrumentation and inclusion of controls for supply-side determinants. In a quantification exercise, we show that the positive effect of inequality can be substantial and is magnified when coupled with an increase in average income. This suggests that a growing middle class is decisive for internal demand to drive quality upgrading of production and exports of a country.

Suggested Citation

  • Hélène LATZER & Florian MAYNERIS, 2012. "Income distribution and vertical comparative advantage Theory and evidence," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2012018, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES), revised 20 Oct 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2012018
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    Cited by:

    1. Bastos, Paulo & Silva, Joana, 2010. "The quality of a firm's exports: Where you export to matters," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 99-111, November.
    2. Anna Ray & Antoine Vatan, 2013. "Demand for Luxury Goods in a World of Income Disparities," PSE - G-MOND WORKING PAPERS hal-00959398, HAL.
    3. Lisandra Flach & Eckhard Janeba, 2017. "Income inequality and export prices across countries," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 50(1), pages 162-200, February.
    4. Paul Maarek & Renaud Bourlès & Michael T.Dorsch, 2014. "Income Redistribution and the Diversity of Consumer Goods," THEMA Working Papers 2014-21, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    5. Yılmaz Ensar, 2016. "Market Imperfections and Income Distribution," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 16(2), pages 1147-1167, April.
    6. Ferto, Imre & Bojnec, Stefan, 2015. "Quality upgrading in the European-Union agri-food exports," 89th Annual Conference, April 13-15, 2015, Warwick University, Coventry, UK 204225, Agricultural Economics Society.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Product quality; Income distribution; Trade; Economies of scale; Home market effect;

    JEL classification:

    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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