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The Structure and Growth of International Trade

  • Massimo Riccaboni

    (Department of Computer and Management Sciences, University di Trento (Italy)
    Department of Physics Boston University)

  • Stefano Schiavo

    (Department of Economics, University of Trento
    Observatoire Français des Conjonctures Économiques)

The paper develops a model of proportionate growth to describe the dynamics of international trade flows. We show that a large number of the empirical regularities characterizing international trade — such as the fraction of zero trade flows across pairs of countries, the positive relationship between intensive and extensive margins, the high concentration of trade with respect to both products and destinations, the core-periphery structure of exchanges — are well explained by this simple stochastic setup. This helps us to distinguish among economically relevant regularities and those simply resulting from the mechanical interactions among agents. Furthermore, our model can be used to describe the process of 'self-discovery' that lie at the foundations of successful export-led growth and is thought to play a crucial role in the process of economic development. Our model correctly predicts that large export flows are rare events, as pointed out in the empirical literature: yet, countries characterized by large 'discovery' efforts are much more likely to draw a 'big hit' due to the (very skewed) shape of the distribution of bilateral export flows.

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Paper provided by Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE) in its series Documents de Travail de l'OFCE with number 2009-24.

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Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fce:doctra:0924
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  1. Guimarães, Paulo & Figueiredo, Octávio & Woodward, Douglas, 2009. "Dartboard tests for the location quotient," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 360-364, May.
  2. Fu, Dongfeng & Pammolli, Fabio & Buldyrev, Sergey V. & Riccaboni, Massimo & Matia, Kaushik & Yamasaki, Kazuko & Stanley, H. Eugene, 2005. "The Growth of Business Firms: Theoretical Framework and Empirical Evidence," MPRA Paper 15905, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. 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.
  4. Matthieu Crozet & Pamina Koenig, 2007. "Structural gravity equations with intensive and extensive margins," EconomiX Working Papers 2007-36, University of Paris West - Nanterre la Défense, EconomiX.
  5. Andrew.B Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2007. "Firms in international trade," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3682, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  6. Growiec, Jakub & Pammolli, Fabio & Riccaboni, Massimo & Stanley, H. Eugene, 2008. "On the size distribution of business firms," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 98(2), pages 207-212, February.
  7. Massimo Riccaboni & Fabio Pammolli & Sergey V. Buldyrev & Linda Ponta & H. Eugene Stanley, 2009. "The Size Variance Relationship of Business Firm Growth Rates," DISA Working Papers 0901, Department of Computer and Management Sciences, University of Trento, Italy, revised 11 Jun 2009.
  8. Giorgio Fagiolo & Mauro Napoletano & Andrea Roventini, 2006. "Are output growth-rate distributions fat-tailed? Some evidence from OECD countries," Sciences Po publications 36, Sciences Po.
  9. Hausmann, Ricardo & Rodrik, Dani, 2002. "Economic Development as Self-Discovery," Working Paper Series rwp02-023, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  10. D. Garlaschelli & M. I. Loffredo, 2005. "Structure and Evolution of the World Trade Network," Papers physics/0502066,, revised May 2005.
  11. Robert C. Feenstra & Robert E. Lipsey & Haiyan Deng & Alyson C. Ma & Hengyong Mo, 2005. "World Trade Flows: 1962-2000," NBER Working Papers 11040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Giorgio Fagiolo & Javier Reyes & Stefano Schiavo, 2008. "The World-Trade Web: Topological Properties, Dynamics, and Evolution," Working Papers hal-01066180, HAL.
  13. Sebastian Krautheim, 2007. "Gravity and Information: Heterogeneous Firms, Exporter Networks and the 'Distance Puzzle'," Economics Working Papers ECO2007/51, European University Institute.
  14. Besedes, Tibor & Prusa, Thomas J., 2006. "Product differentiation and duration of US import trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 339-358, December.
  15. Yamasaki, Kazuko & Matia, Kaushik & Buldyrev, Sergey V. & Fu, Dongfeng & Pammolli, Fabio & Riccaboni, Massimo & Stanley, H. Eugene, 2004. "Preferential attachment and growth dynamics in complex systems," MPRA Paper 15908, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 06 Feb 2006.
  16. Tibor Besedes & Thomas J. Prusa, 2007. "The Role of Extensive and Intensive Margins and Export Growth," NBER Working Papers 13628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Fagiolo, Giorgio & Reyes, Javier & Schiavo, Stefano, 2008. "On the topological properties of the world trade web: A weighted network analysis," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 387(15), pages 3868-3873.
  18. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen J. Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2010. "The Margins of US Trade," Working Paper Series WP10-4, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  19. C. A. Hidalgo & B. Klinger & A. -L. Barabasi & R. Hausmann, 2007. "The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations," Papers 0708.2090,
  20. Roc Armenter & Mikl?s Koren, 2014. "A Balls-and-Bins Model of Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(7), pages 2127-51, July.
  21. Cesar A. Hidalgo & Ricardo Hausmann, 2009. "The Building Blocks of Economic Complexity," Papers 0909.3890,
  22. Massimo Riccaboni & Stefano Schiavo, 2009. "The Structure and Growth of Weighted Networks," Papers 0908.0348,, revised Dec 2009.
  23. Thomas Chaney, 2008. "Distorted Gravity: The Intensive and Extensive Margins of International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1707-21, September.
  24. D. Garlaschelli & M. I. Loffredo, 2004. "Fitness-dependent topological properties of the World Trade Web," Papers cond-mat/0403051,, revised Oct 2004.
  25. Sergey V. Buldyrev & Jakub Growiec & Fabio Pammolli & Massimo Riccaboni & H. Eugene Stanley, 2007. "The Growth of Business Firms: Facts and Theory," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(2-3), pages 574-584, 04-05.
  26. Garlaschelli, Diego & Loffredo, Maria I., 2005. "Structure and evolution of the world trade network," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 355(1), pages 138-144.
  27. K. Bhattacharya & G. Mukherjee & J. Saramaki & K. Kaski & S. S. Manna, 2007. "The International Trade Network: weighted network analysis and modelling," Papers 0707.4343,, revised Mar 2008.
  28. Raja Kali & Javier Reyes, 2010. "Financial Contagion On The International Trade Network," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(4), pages 1072-1101, October.
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