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Exports, borders, distance, and plant size

  • Thomas J. Holmes
  • John J. Stevens

The fact that large manufacturing plants export relatively more than small plants has been at the foundation of much work in the international trade literature. We examine this fact using Census micro data on plant shipments from the Commodity Flow Survey. We show the fact is not entirely an international trade phenomenon; part of it can be accounted for by the effect of distance, distinct from any border effect. Export destinations tend to be further than domestic destinations, and large plants tend to ship further distances even to domestic locations, as compared with small plants. We develop an extension of the Melitz (2003) model and use it to set up an analysis with model interpretations of ratios between large plant and small plant shipments that can be calculated with the data. We obtain a decomposition of the overall ratio into a term that varies with distance, holding fixed the border, and a term that varies with the border, holding fixed the distance. The distance term accounts for more than half of the overall difference.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2010-38.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2010-38
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  1. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2007. "Firms in International Trade," CEP Discussion Papers dp0795, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  2. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Peter K. Schott, 2005. "Importers, Exporters, and Multinationals: A Portrait of Firms in the U.S. that Trade Goods," Working Paper Series WP05-10, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  3. Andrew B. Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jensen & Samuel Kortum, 2000. "Plants and Productivity in International Trade," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 105, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  4. Thomas J. Holmes & John J. Stevens, 2010. "An Alternative Theory of the Plant Size Distribution with an Application to Trade," NBER Working Papers 15957, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Russell Hillberry & David Hummels, 2005. "Trade Responses to Geographic Frictions: A Decomposition Using Micro-Data," NBER Working Papers 11339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. John F. Helliwell, 1995. "Do National Borders Matter for Quebec's Trade?," NBER Working Papers 5215, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Richard Baldwin & James Harrigan, 2007. "Zeros, Quality and Space: Trade Theory and Trade Evidence," NBER Working Papers 13214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Engel, Charles & Rogers, John H, 1996. "How Wide Is the Border?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1112-25, December.
  9. 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.
  10. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2004. "Trade Costs," NBER Working Papers 10480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Russell Hillberry & David Hummels, 2002. "Intra-national Home Bias: Some Explanations," NBER Working Papers 9022, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Milgrom, P. & Shannon, C., 1991. "Monotone Comparative Statics," Papers 11, Stanford - Institute for Thoretical Economics.
  13. Timothy Dunne & J. Bradford Jensen & Mark J. Roberts, 2009. "Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number dunn05-1, December.
  14. 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.
  15. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2003. "Gravity with Gravitas: A Solution to the Border Puzzle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 170-192, March.
  16. Thomas J. Holmes & John J. Stevens, 2002. "Geographic Concentration and Establishment Scale," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(4), pages 682-690, November.
  17. McCallum, John, 1995. "National Borders Matter: Canada-U.S. Regional Trade Patterns," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 615-23, June.
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