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Power Laws in Firm Size and Openness to Trade; Measurement and Implications

  • Andrei A. Levchenko
  • Julian Di Giovanni
  • Romain Ranciere

Existing estimates of power laws in firm size typically ignore the impact of international trade. Using a simple theoretical framework, we show that international trade systematically affects the distribution of firm size: the power law exponent among exporting firms should be strictly lower in absolute value than the power law exponent among non-exporting rms. We use a dataset of French firms to demonstrate that this prediction is strongly supported by the data. While estimates of power law exponents have been used to pin down parameters in theoretical and quantitative models, our analysis implies that the existing estimates are systematically lower than the true values. We propose two simple ways of estimating power law parameters that take explicit account of exporting behavior.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 10/109.

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Length: 31
Date of creation: 01 Apr 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:10/109
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  1. 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.
  2. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier, 2006. "Why Has CEO Pay Increased So Much?," 2006 Meeting Papers 518, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Costas Arkolakis, 2009. "A Unified Theory of Firm Selection and Growth," CESifo Working Paper Series 2679, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Julian di Giovanni & Andrei A. Levchenko, 2011. "Country Size, International Trade, and Aggregate Fluctuations in Granular Economies," NBER Working Papers 17335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Erzo G. J. Luttmer, 2007. "Selection, Growth, and the Size Distribution of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1103-1144.
  6. Elhanan Helpman & Marc J. Melitz & Stephen R. Yeaple, 2004. "Export Versus FDI with Heterogeneous Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 300-316, March.
  7. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Mark L. J. Wright, 2006. "Urban structure and growth," Staff Report 381, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Hanson, Gordon & Xiang, Chong, 2011. "Trade barriers and trade flows with product heterogeneity: An application to US motion picture exports," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 14-26, January.
  9. Xavier Gabaix, 2011. "The Granular Origins of Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(3), pages 733-772, 05.
  10. Julian di Giovanni & Andrei A. Levchenko, 2009. "International Trade and Aggregate Fluctuations in Granular Economies," Working Papers 585, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  11. 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.
  12. Xavier Gabaix, 2009. "Power Laws in Economics and Finance," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 255-294, 05.
  13. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum & Francis Kramarz, 2008. "An Anatomy of International Trade: Evidence from French Firms," NBER Working Papers 14610, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Costas Arkolakis, 2008. "Market Penetration Costs and the New Consumers Margin in International Trade," NBER Working Papers 14214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Gordon H. Hanson & Chong Xiang, 2008. "Testing the Melitz Model of Trade: An Application to U.S. Motion Picture Exports," NBER Working Papers 14461, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Yongseok Shin & Francisco Buera, 2007. "Financial Frictions and the Persistence of History: A Quantitative Exploration," 2007 Meeting Papers 300, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  17. Xavier Gabaix & Rustam Ibragimov, 2011. "Rank - 1 / 2: A Simple Way to Improve the OLS Estimation of Tail Exponents," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(1), pages 24-39, January.
  18. Easterly, William & Reshef, Ariell & Schwenkenberg, Julia, 2009. "The power of exports," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5081, The World Bank.
  19. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf's Law for Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767.
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