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The Evolution of Comparative Advantage: Measurement and Implications

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  • Levchenko, Andrei A.

    () (University of Michigan)

  • Zhang, Jing

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

Abstract

We estimate productivities at the sector level for 72 countries and 5 decades, and examine how they evolve over time in both developed and developing countries. In both country groups, comparative advantage has become weaker: productivity grew systematically faster in sectors that were initially at greater comparative disadvantage. These changes have had a significant impact on trade volumes and patterns, and a non-negligible welfare impact. In the counterfactual scenario in which each country's comparative advantage remained the same as in the 1960s, and technology in all sectors grew at the same country-specific average rate, trade volumes would be higher, cross-country export patterns more dissimilar, and intra-industry trade lower than in the data. In this counterfactual scenario, welfare is also 1.6% higher for the median country compared to the baseline. The welfare impact varies greatly across countries, ranging from −1.1% to +4.3% among OECD countries, and from −6% to +41.9% among non-OECD countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Levchenko, Andrei A. & Zhang, Jing, 2014. "The Evolution of Comparative Advantage: Measurement and Implications," Working Paper Series WP-2014-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-2014-12
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    Cited by:

    1. Hugo Rojas-Romagosa & Eddy Bekkers & Joseph F. Francois, 2015. "Melting Ice Caps and the Economic Impact of Opening the Northern Sea Route," CPB Discussion Paper 307, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    2. Ricardo Reyes-Heroles, 2017. "The Role of Trade Costs in the Surge of Trade Imbalances," 2017 Meeting Papers 212, Society for Economic Dynamics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    technological change; sectoral TFP; Ricardian models of trade; welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • F11 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Neoclassical Models of Trade
    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

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