Ricardo's Theory of Comparative Advantage: Old Idea, New Evidence
When asked to name one proposition in the social sciences that is both true and non-trivial, Paul Samuelson famously replied: 'Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage'. Truth, however, in Samuelson's reply refers to the fact that Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage is mathematically correct, not that it is empirically valid. The goal of this paper is to assess the empirical performance of Ricardo's ideas. We use novel agricultural data that describe the productivity in 17 crops of 1.6 million parcels of land in 55 countries around the world. Crucially, this dataset contains information about the productivity of each parcel of land in all crops, not just those that are currently being grown. This direct information about relative productivity differences across economic activities allows us to compute, for the first time, the output predicted by Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage. Despite all of the real-world considerations from which this theory abstracts, we find that Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage has significant explanatory power in the data, at least within the scope of our analysis.
|Date of creation:||Apr 2012|
|Publication status:||published as Arnaud Costinot & Dave Donaldson, 2012. "Ricardo's Theory of Comparative Advantage: Old Idea, New Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 453-58, May.|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Nathan Nunn & Nancy Qian, 2011.
"The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence From A Historical Experiment,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 593-650.
- Nunn, Nathan & Qian, Nancy, 2009. "The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from an Historical Experiment," CEPR Discussion Papers 7364, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Nathan Nunn & Nancy Qian, 2009. "The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from an Historical Experiment," NBER Working Papers 15157, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Arnaud Costinot, 2009.
"An Elementary Theory of Comparative Advantage,"
NBER Working Papers
14645, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17969. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.