IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Multicountry, Multifactor Tests of the Factor Abundance Theory


  • Harry P. Bowen
  • Edward E. Leamer
  • Leo Sveikauskas


This paper presents conceptually correct tests of the Heckscher-Ohlin proposition that trade in commodities can be explained in terms of an interaction between factor input requirements and factor endowments. Most prior work that claims top resent tests of this hypothesis have used intuitive but inappropriate generalizations of the traditional two by two model to deal with a multidimensional reality. Moreover, prior work has in general used measurements on only two of the three variables(trade, factor input requirements and factor endowments) that are required for a proper test of the H-O theory.We derive an exact specification of the H-O interaction in a multicountry, multicommodity, multifactor world in the form of the Heckscher-Ohlin-Vanek (H-O-V) theorem which equates the factors embodied in net trade to excess factor supplies.This theorem implies sign and rank propositions analogous to those implicitly studied by Leontief, but it also implies hypotheses about the parameters linking factor contents and factor supplies. Accordingly, we conduct tests of the sign and rank propositions as well as several parametric hypotheses which permit various assumptions about measurement errors, nonproportional consumption and technological differences. Our analysis uses separately measured data on trade, factor input requirements and endowments for twenty-seven countries and twelve factors in 1967. Tests of the Leontief type sign and rank propositions sharply reject this facet of the H-O-V model. In particular, the sign of net factor exports infrequently predicts the sign of excess factor supplies and therefore does not systematically reveal factor abundance.The results from an extended set of tests conducted in a regression context reject the H-O-V hypothesis of an exact relationship between factor contents and national factor supplies. Support is found for the H-O--V assumption of homothetic preferences, but estimates of the parameters linking factor contents and factor supplies are found to differ significantly from their theoretical values. We find there is clear evidence that the departure of the estimated coefficients from their theoretical values is importantly related to differences across countries in the matrix of factor input requirements and, by implication, to violation of the assumption of factor price equalization. We also find that errors of measurement in both trade and national factor supplies are an important reason for rejection of the H-O-V hypothesis.

Suggested Citation

  • Harry P. Bowen & Edward E. Leamer & Leo Sveikauskas, 1986. "Multicountry, Multifactor Tests of the Factor Abundance Theory," NBER Working Papers 1918, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1918
    Note: ITI IFM

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harkness, Jon P, 1978. "Factor Abundance and Comparative Advantage," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(5), pages 784-800, December.
    2. Baldwin, Robert E, 1971. "Determinants of the Commodity Structure of U.S. Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(1), pages 126-146, March.
    3. Sveikauskas, Leo A, 1983. "Science and Technology in United States Foreign Trade," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 93(371), pages 542-554, September.
    4. Horiba, Yutaka, 1979. "Testing the Demand Side of Comparative Advantage Models," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(4), pages 650-661, September.
    5. Branson, William H. & Monoyios, Nikolaos, 1977. "Factor inputs in U.S. trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 111-131, May.
    6. Brecher, Richard A & Choudhri, Ehsan U, 1982. "The Leontief Paradox, Continued," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(4), pages 820-823, August.
    7. Bowen, Harry P, 1983. "Changes in the International Distribution of Resources and Their Impact on U.S. Comparative Advantage," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(3), pages 402-414, August.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1918. 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: (). General contact details of provider: .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.