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Airplanes and Comparative Advantage

  • James Harrigan

Airplanes are a fast but expensive means of shipping goods, a fact which has implications for comparative advantage. The paper develops a Ricardian model with a continuum of goods which vary by weight and hence transport cost. Comparative advantage depends on relative air and surface transport costs across countries and goods, as well as stochastic productivity. A key testable implication is that the U.S. should import heavier goods from nearby countries, and lighter goods from faraway counties. This implications is tested using detailed data on U.S. imports from 1990 to 2003. Looking across goods the U.S. imports, nearby exporters have lower market share in goods that the rest of the world ships by air. Looking across exporters for individual goods, distance from the US is associated with much higher import unit values. These effects are large, which establishes that the model identifies an important influence on specialization and trade.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11688.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11688.

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Date of creation: Oct 2005
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Publication status: published as Harrigan, James, 2010. "Airplanes and comparative advantage," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 181-194, November.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11688
Note: ITI
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  1. Venables, Anthony J. & Limao, Nuno, 2002. "Geographical disadvantage: a Heckscher-Ohlin-von Thunen model of international specialisation," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 239-263, December.
  2. James Harrigan & Tony Venables, 2004. "Timeliness, trade and agglomeration," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2300, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Across-product Versus Within-product Specialization in International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 646-677, May.
  4. Redding, Stephen & Venables, Anthony J., 2004. "Economic geography and international inequality," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 53-82, January.
  5. Harrigan, James & Venables, Anthony J., 2006. "Timeliness and agglomeration," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 300-316, March.
  6. Juan Carlos Hallak, 2004. "Product Quality, Linder, and the Direction of Trade," NBER Working Papers 10877, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
  8. Alan V Deardorff, 2004. "Local Comparative Advantage: Trade Costs and the Pattern of Trade," Working Papers 500, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  9. Carolyn L. Evans & James Harrigan, 2005. "Distance, Time, and Specialization: Lean Retailing in General Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 292-313, March.
  10. Hallak, Juan Carlos, 2006. "Product quality and the direction of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 238-265, January.
  11. David Hummels & Peter J. Klenow, 2005. "The Variety and Quality of a Nation's Exports," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 704-723, June.
  12. David Hummels & Alexandre Skiba, 2004. "Shipping the Good Apples Out? An Empirical Confirmation of the Alchian-Allen Conjecture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1384-1402, December.
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