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Trade in Ideal Varieties: Theory and Evidence


  • David Hummels
  • Volodymyr Lugovskyy


Models with constant-elasticity of substitution (CES) preferences are commonly employed in the international trade literature because they provide a tractable way to handle product differentiation in general equilibrium. However this tractability comes at the cost of generating a set of counter-factual predictions regarding cross-country variation in export and import variety, output per variety, and prices. We examine whether a generalized version of Lancaster's 'ideal variety' model can better match facts. In this model, entry causes crowding in variety space, so that the marginal utility of new varieties falls as market size grows. Crowding is partially offset by income effects, as richer consumers will pay more for varieties closer matched to their ideal types. We show theoretically and confirm empirically that declining marginal utility of new varieties results in: a higher own-price elasticity of demand (and lower prices) in large countries and a lower own-price elasticity of demand (and higher prices) in rich countries. Model predictions about cross-country differences in the number and size of establishments are also empirically confirmed.

Suggested Citation

  • David Hummels & Volodymyr Lugovskyy, 2005. "Trade in Ideal Varieties: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 11828, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11828
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    14. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Desmet, Klaus & Parente, Stephen, 2006. "Bigger is Better: Market Size, Demand Elasticity and Resistance to Technology Adoption," CEPR Discussion Papers 5825, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Klaus Desmet & Stephen Parente, 2012. "The evolution of markets and the revolution of industry: a unified theory of growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 205-234, September.
    3. Nakhoda, Aadil, 2013. "The impact of the exports of BRIC countries plus Turkey on the exports of Pakistan," MPRA Paper 52477, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Liu, Xiaohui & Zhang, Jing, 2015. "Export diversification and exchange-rate regimes: Evidences from 72 developing countries," MPRA Paper 66448, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Tarr, David G., 2013. "Putting Services and Foreign Direct Investment with Endogenous Productivity Effects in Computable General Equilibrium Models," Handbook of Computable General Equilibrium Modeling, Elsevier.
    6. Philip Sauré, 2012. "Bounded Love of Variety and Patterns of Trade," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 23(4), pages 645-674, September.
    7. Klaus Desmet & Stephen L. Parente, 2006. "Market Size, Trade, and the Resistance to the Adoption of Better Technology," 2006 Meeting Papers 264, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Joshua Aizenman, 2010. "Comment on "Exporting Deflation? Chinese Exports and Japanese Prices"," NBER Chapters,in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 227-230 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Martin Andersson & Börje Johansson, 2008. "Innovation Ideas and Regional Characteristics: Product Innovations and Export Entrepreneurship by Firms in Swedish Regions," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(2), pages 193-224.
    10. Stephen L. Parente & Klaus Desmet, 2008. "The Evolution of Markets and the Revolution of Industry," 2008 Meeting Papers 688, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    11. Thomas F. Rutherford & David G. Tarr, 2014. "Poverty effects of Russia's WTO accession: Modeling “real” households with endogenous productivity effects," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: APPLIED TRADE POLICY MODELING IN 16 COUNTRIES Insights and Impacts from World Bank CGE Based Projects, chapter 12, pages 287-306 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    12. Goksel, Turkmen, 2012. "Financial constraints and international trade patterns," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 2222-2225.
    13. Laszlo Halpern & Miklos Koren & Adam Szeidl, 2005. "Import and Productivity," IEHAS Discussion Papers 0509, Institute of Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
    14. László Halpern & Miklós Koren & Adam Szeidl, 2015. "Imported Inputs and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(12), pages 3660-3703, December.
    15. Coibion, Olivier & Einav, Liran & Hallak, Juan Carlos, 2007. "Equilibrium demand elasticities across quality segments," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 13-30, February.

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    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade

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