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Reconciling observed tariffs and the median voter model

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  • Dhingra, Swati

Abstract

Median voter theory applied to trade policy predicts positive tariffs in capital-abundant countries and negative tariffs in labor-abundant countries. Negative tariffs are rare, and this paper reconciles the median voter theory with observed protectionism across countries. By considering large countries, I show the optimal tariff is a sum of the median voter component and a positive in terms of trade component. Positive terms of trade effects raise tariffs in all countries, and can overcome the negative median voter component in labor-abundant countries. Testing the tariff prediction with cross-section and panel data from the 1990s, I show the median voter component is negative in labor-abundant countries and positive in capital-abundant countries. As expected, terms of trade effects raise tariffs across all countries and are stronger among non-members of the WTO.

Suggested Citation

  • Dhingra, Swati, 2014. "Reconciling observed tariffs and the median voter model," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 60354, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:60354
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/60354/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Giovanni Maggi & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 2007. "A Political-Economy Theory of Trade Agreements," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(4), pages 1374-1406, September.
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    4. Edward J. Balistreri, 1997. "The Performance of the Heckscher-Ohlin-Vanek Model in Predicting Endogenous Policy Forces at the Individual Level," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 30(1), pages 1-17, February.
    5. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2003. "Was It Stolper-Samuelson, Infant Industry or Something Else? World Trade Tariffs 1789-1938," NBER Working Papers 9656, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Li, Hongyi & Squire, Lyn & Zou, Heng-fu, 1998. "Explaining International and Intertemporal Variations in Income Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(446), pages 26-43, January.
    7. Robert W. Staiger & Kyle Bagwell, 1999. "An Economic Theory of GATT," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 215-248, March.
    8. K. H. O'Rourke & R. Sinnott, 2001. "The Determinants of Individual Trade Policy Preferences: International Survey Evidence," CEG Working Papers 20016, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sheldon, Ian M. & Chow, Daniel C.K. & McGuire, William, 2017. "Trade Liberalization and Institutional Constraints on Moves to Protectionism: Multilateralism vs. Regionalism," 2018 Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA) Annual Meeting, January 5-7, 2018, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 266305, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    2. Kyle Bagwell & Chad P. Bown & Robert W. Staiger, 2016. "Is the WTO Passé?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(4), pages 1125-1231, December.
    3. Blanchard, Emily & Willmann, Gerald, 2018. "Unequal Gains, Prolonged Pain: A Model of Protectionist Overshooting and Escalation," CEPR Discussion Papers 13160, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 2016. "The Design of Trade Agreements," NBER Working Papers 22087, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Median voter; trade policy; Heckscher Ohlin; terms of trade; WTO;

    JEL classification:

    • F11 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Neoclassical Models of Trade
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F59 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - Other

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