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Contractual Versus Generic Outsourcing: The Role of Proximity


  • Robert C. Feenstra
  • Barbara J. Spencer


We explore the relationship between proximity of buyers and sellers and the organizational form of outsourcing. Outsourcing can be "contractual" in which suppliers undertake specific investments or involve "generic" market transactions. Proximity expands the variety of products sourced through contracts abroad rather than at home, but the range of generic imports is unchanged. A higher-quality foreign workforce raises the variety of contractual trade, but at the expense of generics. We confirm these predictions using data for ordinary versus processing exports from Chinese provinces to destination markets and also the predictions of an extended model that allows for multinational production.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert C. Feenstra & Barbara J. Spencer, 2005. "Contractual Versus Generic Outsourcing: The Role of Proximity," NBER Working Papers 11885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11885
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 2005. "Ownership and Control in Outsourcing to China: Estimating the Property-Rights Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 729-761.
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    6. Keith Head & John Ries & Barbara J. Spencer, 2004. "Vertical Networks and US Auto Parts Exports: Is Japan Different?," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(1), pages 37-67, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. James Harrigan & Haiyan Deng, 2010. "China's Local Comparative Advantage," NBER Chapters,in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 109-133 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Rosario Crinò, 2007. "Offshoring, Multinationals and Labor Market: A Review of the Empirical Literature," KITeS Working Papers 196, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Jan 2007.
    3. Feenstra, Robert C. & Hong, Chang & Ma, Hong & Spencer, Barbara J., 2013. "Contractual versus non-contractual trade: The role of institutions in China," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 281-294.
    4. Dermot Leahy & Catia Montagna, "undated". "Economising, Strategising and the Decision to Outsource," Discussion Papers 11/17, University of Nottingham, GEP.
    5. Tomiura, Eiichi, 2009. "Foreign versus domestic outsourcing: Firm-level evidence on the role of technology," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 219-226, March.
    6. Kikuchi, Toru & Long, Ngo Van, 2010. "A simple model of service offshoring with time zone differences," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 217-227, December.
    7. Bruce A. Blonigen & Alyson C. Ma, 2010. "Please Pass the Catch-Up: The Relative Performance of Chinese and Foreign Firms in Chinese Exports," NBER Chapters,in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 475-509 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. di Mauro, Filippo & Ottaviano, Gianmarco I.P. & Vicard, Vincent & Altomonte, Carlo & Rungi, Armando, 2012. "Global value chains during the great trade collapse: a bullwhip effect?," Working Paper Series 1412, European Central Bank.
    9. Galina A. Schwartz & Ari Van Assche, 2006. "Input Specificity and Global Sourcing," CIRANO Working Papers 2006s-02, CIRANO.
    10. Rahman, Mizanur, 2008. "The Impact of a Common Currency on East Asian Production Networks and China’s Exports Behavior," MPRA Paper 13931, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Yiping Zhu, 2008. "Globalisation, Employment, and Wage Rate: What Does Literature Tell Us?," IMK Working Paper 07-2008, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    12. Adelheid Holl & Rafael Pardo & Ruth Rama, 2010. "Just-in-Time Manufacturing Systems, Subcontracting and Geographic Proximity," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(5), pages 519-533.
    13. Elhanan Helpman, 2006. "Trade, FDI, and the Organization of Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 44(3), pages 589-630, September.
    14. Stefano Federico, 2010. "Outsourcing versus integration at home or abroad and firm heterogeneity," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 47-63, February.
    15. Van Assche, Ari & Schwartz, Galina A., 2010. "Input specificity and global sourcing," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 69-85, March.
    16. Dimitra Petropoulou & Xavier Cirera & Dirk Willenbockel, 2013. "The Determinants of Outward Processing: Evidence from Offshoring Intermediates by the European Union," Working Paper Series 5413, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
    17. Alicia Garcia-Herrero, 2015. "Determinants of Trade in Parts and Components: An Empirical Analysis," Working Papers 1524, BBVA Bank, Economic Research Department.
    18. Stefano Federico, 2010. "Outsourcing versus Integration at Home or Abroad," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 742, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • L24 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Contracting Out; Joint Ventures

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