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Increasing Returns and the Theory of International Trade

  • Paul R. Krugman

Increasing returns are as fundamental a cause of international trade as comparative advantage, but their role has until recently been neglected because of the problem of modelling market structure. Recently substantial theoretical progress has been made using three different approaches. These are the Marshallian approach, where economies of scale are assumed external to firms; the Chamberlinian approach, where imperfect competition takes the relatively tractable form of monopolistic competition; and the Cournot approach of noncooperative quantity-setting firms. This paper surveys the basic concepts and results of each approach. It shows that some basic insights are not too sensitive to the particular model of market structure. Although much remains to be done, we have made more progress toward a general analysis of increasing returns and trade than anyone would have thought possible even a few years ago.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w1752.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1752.

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Date of creation: Oct 1985
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Publication status: Published as "Urban Concentration: The Role of Increasing Returns and Transport Goods", International Regional Science Review, Vol. 19, no. 1/2 (1996): 5-30.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1752
Note: ITI IFM
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  1. Helpman, Elhanan & Razin, Assaf, 1983. "Increasing returns, monopolistic competition, and factor movements : A welfare analysis," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3-4), pages 263-276, May.
  2. Feenstra, Robert C & Judd, Kenneth L, 1982. "Tariffs, Technology Transfer, and Welfare," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1142-65, December.
  3. Krugman, Paul R., 1979. "Increasing returns, monopolistic competition, and international trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 469-479, November.
  4. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1975. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 64, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  5. Ethier, Wilfred, 1979. "Internationally decreasing costs and world trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 1-24, February.
  6. Spence, Michael, 1976. "Product Selection, Fixed Costs, and Monopolistic Competition," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 217-35, June.
  7. Krugman, Paul, 1980. "Scale Economies, Product Differentiation, and the Pattern of Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(5), pages 950-59, December.
  8. James R. Melvin, 1969. "Increasing Returns to Scale as a Determinant of Trade," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 2(3), pages 389-402, August.
  9. Ethier, Wilfred J, 1982. "Decreasing Costs in International Trade and Frank Graham's Argument for Protection," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1243-68, September.
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