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When Veblen meets Krugman

  • Christian Ghiglino
  • Antonella Nocco

We introduce relative concerns in the form of conspicuous consumption in a standard economic geography model a la Krugman. The primary intuition is that conspicuous consumption imposes a negative externality on some agents and generates a centrifugal force. We show that this is not always the case as the relative concern also rises the demand for the sophisticated good, strengthening the standard centripetal market size effect. We show that the resulting force is very sensitive to the topology of the network of "conspicuous" links in each region and on the level of economic integration. For instance, with relatively large shares of income devoted to the consumption of the standard good, we show that when trade is moderately costly and classes of workers are segregated, relative concerns tends to stabilize the symmetric equilibrium; on the other hand, if workers of different classes interact via their relative concerns, conspicuous consumption is a centripetal force generating stable fully or partially agglomerated equilibria. Finally, when the level of integration is high, the intuition holds and even small relative concerns destabilize the full agglomeration equilibrium, which is stable in the Krugman model.

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Paper provided by DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade in its series DEGIT Conference Papers with number c017_030.

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Length: 70 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:deg:conpap:c017_030
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  1. Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2005. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 963-1002.
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  9. Stark, Oded & Taylor, J Edward, 1991. "Migration Incentives, Migration Types: The Role of Relative Deprivation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(408), pages 1163-78, September.
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  12. Borjas, George J, 1987. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 531-53, September.
  13. Thorstein Veblen, 1899. "Mr. Cummings's Strictures on "The Theory of the Leisure Class"," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8, pages 106.
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  15. Murata, Yasusada, 2003. "Product diversity, taste heterogeneity, and geographic distribution of economic activities:: market vs. non-market interactions," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 126-144, January.
  16. Antonella Nocco, 2009. "Preference Heterogeneity And Economic Geography," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(1), pages 33-56.
  17. Paul Krugman, 1990. "Increasing Returns and Economic Geography," NBER Working Papers 3275, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Veblen, Thorstein, 1899. "The Theory of the Leisure Class," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number veblen1899.
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