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Explaining Product Price Differences Across Countries

  • Robert E. Lipsey
  • Birgitta Swedenborg

A substantial part of international differences in prices of individual products, both goods and services, can be explained by differences in per capita income, wage compression, or low wage dispersion among low-wage workers, and short-term exchange rate fluctuations. Higher per capita income is associated with higher prices and higher wage dispersion with lower prices. The effects of higher income and wage dispersion are moderated for the more tradable products. The effects of wage dispersion, on the other hand, are magnified for the more labor-intensive products, particularly low-skill services. The differences in prices across countries are reflected in differences in the composition of consumption. Countries in which prices of labor-intensive services are very high, such as the Nordic countries, consume much less of them. For some services, the shares of GDP consumed in high-price countries are less than 20 percent of the shares in low-price countries. Since these are services of very low tradability, the low consumption levels of these services imply low employment in them.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13239.

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Date of creation: Jul 2007
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13239
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  1. Blanchard, Olivier J & Giavazzi, Francesco, 2001. "Macroeconomic Effects of Regulation and Deregulation in Goods and Labour Markets," CEPR Discussion Papers 2713, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Bertola, Giuseppe & Blau, Francine D & Kahn, Lawrence, 2001. "Comparative Analysis of Labour Market Outcomes: Lessons for the US from International Long-Run Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 3023, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Winfried Koeniger & Marco Leonardi & Luca Nunziata, 2007. "Labor Market Institutions and Wage Inequality," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 60(3), pages 340-356, April.
  4. Bhagwati, Jagdish N, 1984. "Why Are Services Cheaper in the Poor Countries?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(374), pages 279-86, June.
  5. Lipsey, Robert E & Swedenborg, Birgitta, 1996. "The High Cost of Eating: Causes of International Differences in Consumer Food Prices," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 42(2), pages 181-94, June.
  6. Anders Bjorklund & Richard B. Freeman, 1997. "Generating Equality and Eliminating Poverty, the Swedish Way," NBER Chapters, in: The Welfare State in Transition: Reforming the Swedish Model, pages 33-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Richard B. Freeman & Ronald Schettkat, 2000. "Skill Compression, Wage Differentials and Employment: Germany vs. the US," NBER Working Papers 7610, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Richard B. Freeman & Robert Topel & Birgitta Swedenborg, 1997. "The Welfare State in Transition: Reforming the Swedish Model," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free97-1, October.
  9. Davis, Steven J. & Henrekson, Magnus, 2006. "Economic Performance and Work Activity in Sweden affter the Crisis of the early 1990s," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 647, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 12 Dec 2006.
  10. Sanyal, Kalyan K & Jones, Ronald W, 1982. "The Theory of Trade in Middle Products," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(1), pages 16-31, March.
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