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Multi-Product Firms and Product Quality

  • Kalina Manova
  • Zhiwei Zhang

This paper proposes that quality differentiation is an important feature of the operations of multi-product firms. We develop a model in which manufacturers vary product quality across their product range by using inputs of different quality levels. Firms' core competency is in varieties of superior quality that bring higher sales despite being more expensive. Using detailed customs data for China, we establish four new stylized facts consistent with this model. First, firms earn more bilateral and global revenues from their more expensive products. Second, exporters focus on their top expensive goods, drop cheaper articles and earn lower revenues in markets where they sell fewer varieties. Third, companies' sales are more skewed towards their core expensive goods in destinations where they offer less items. Finally, export prices are positively correlated with input prices across products within a firm. Our results have important implications for the aggregate and distributional effects of trade reforms and exchange rate movements.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18637.

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Date of creation: Dec 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18637
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  1. Kalina Manova & Zhiwei Zhang, 2008. "China's exporters and importers: firms, products, and trade partners," Working Paper Series 2008-28, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  2. Thierry Mayer & Marc J. Melitz & Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano, 2011. "Market Size, Competition, and the Product Mix of Exporters," Development Working Papers 316, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano.
  3. Eckel, Carsten & Iacovone, Leonardo & Javorcik, Beata & Neary, J. Peter, 2015. "Multi-product firms at home and away: Cost- versus quality-based competence," Munich Reprints in Economics 26852, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  4. Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Melitz, Marc, 2008. "Market Size, Trade, and Productivity," Scholarly Articles 3229096, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  13. Gita Gopinath & Brent Neiman, 2011. "Trade adjustment and productivity in large crises," Working Papers 11-9, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  14. Jan De Loecker, 2014. "Price, Markups and Trade Reforms," Working Papers id:5900, eSocialSciences.
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  17. Carsten Eckel & J. Peter Neary, 2006. "Multi-product firms and flexible manufacturing in the global economy," Working Papers 200608, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  18. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
  19. Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg & Amit Kumar Khandelwal & Nina Pavcnik & Petia Topalova, 2010. "Imported Intermediate Inputs and Domestic Product Growth: Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(4), pages 1727-1767.
  20. Costas Arkolakis & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2010. "The Extensive Margin of Exporting Products: A Firm-level Analysis," NBER Working Papers 16641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Kalina Manova & Zhiwei Zhang, 2012. "Export Prices Across Firms and Destinations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 379-436.
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  24. Johnson, Robert C., 2012. "Trade and prices with heterogeneous firms," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 43-56.
  25. Jan De Loecker & Pinelopi K. Goldberg & Amit K. Khandelwal & Nina Pavcnik, 2016. "Prices, Markups, and Trade Reform," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 84, pages 445-510, 03.
  26. Marc J. Melitz & Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano, 2008. "Market Size, Trade, and Productivity (DOI:10.111/j.1467-937x.2007.00463.x)," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(3), pages 985-985.
  27. Gita Gopinath & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Chang-Tai Hsieh & Nicholas Li, 2011. "International Prices, Costs, and Markup Differences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2450-86, October.
  28. Arpita Chatterjee & Rafael Dix-Carneiro & Jade Vichyanond, 2012. "Multi-Product Firms and Exchange Rate Fluctuations," Discussion Papers 2012-29, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
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