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Income Differences and Prices of Tradables: Insights from an Online Retailer

  • Ina Simonovska

I study the positive relationship between prices of tradable goods and per-capita income. I develop a highly tractable general equilibrium model of international trade with heterogeneous firms and non-homothetic consumer preferences that positively links prices of tradables to consumer income. Guided by the model’s testable prediction, I estimate the elasticity of price with respect to per-capita income from a unique dataset that I construct, which features prices of 245 identical goods sold in 29 European, Asian, and North American markets via the Internet by Spain’s second largest apparel manufacture—Mango. I find that doubling a destination’s per-capita income results in an 18% increase in the price of identical items sold there. Per-capita income differences account for a third, while shipping cost differences can explain up to a third of the cross-country price variations of identical items purchased via the Internet by consumers who do not take advantage of quantity discounts. The price elasticity estimates compare favorably to estimates that I obtain from a standard dataset that features prices across retail locations around the world, suggesting that variable mark-ups play a key role in accounting for observed cross-country differences in prices of tradables.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16233.

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Date of creation: Jul 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16233
Note: ITI
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  1. Michael E. Waugh, 2009. "International trade and income differences," Staff Report 435, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Costas Arkolakis & Svetlana Demidova & Peter J. Klenow & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 2008. "Endogenous Variety and the Gains from Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 444-50, May.
  3. Marc J. Melitz & Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano, 2005. "Market Size, Trade, and Productivity," NBER Working Papers 11393, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. George Alessandria & Joseph Kaboski, 2007. "Pricing-to-market and the failure of absolute PPP," Working Papers 07-29, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  5. Costas Arkolakis, 2008. "Market Penetration Costs and Trade Dynamics," 2008 Meeting Papers 548, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. 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.
  7. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
  8. Robert C. Feenstra & Robert E. Lipsey & Haiyan Deng & Alyson C. Ma & Hengyong Mo, 2005. "World Trade Flows: 1962-2000," NBER Working Papers 11040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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