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Trade, Skills, and Quality Upgrading: A Theory with Evidence from Colombia

Author

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  • Ana Cecília Fieler
  • Marcela Eslava
  • Daniel Xu

Abstract

We develop a model of international trade with heterogeneous firms and endogenous quality choices. Producing higher quality involves returns to scale, it is intensive in skilled labor and high-quality inputs. Firms' quality choices are interrelated because firms sell their goods to consumers and to other firms. We estimate the model using data on manufacturing plants in Colombia before the trade liberalization, simulate a counterfactual liberalization and compare the results to post-liberalization data. Like other unilateral trade liberalizations in developing countries, the skill premium and skill intensity in manufacturing increased, and the size of firms decreased in Colombia. In the model, lower tariffs lead importers and exporters to upgrade quality, increasing the domestic demand and supply of high-quality inputs. Other firms then upgrade their own product quality, thereby amplifying these effects of domestic inputs. Relative demand for skilled labor increases in a wide range of firms, despite a contraction in sales.

Suggested Citation

  • Ana Cecília Fieler & Marcela Eslava & Daniel Xu, 2014. "Trade, Skills, and Quality Upgrading: A Theory with Evidence from Colombia," NBER Working Papers 19992, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19992
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19992.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Colin J. Hottman & Stephen J. Redding & David E. Weinstein, 2016. "Quantifying the Sources of Firm Heterogeneity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(3), pages 1291-1364.
    2. Hummels, David & Munch, Jakob R. & Xiang, Chong, 2016. "Offshoring and Labor Markets," IZA Discussion Papers 9741, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Joaquin Blaum & Claire LeLarge & Michael Peters, 2015. "The Gains from Input Trade in Firm-Based Models of Importing," NBER Working Papers 21504, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Hottman, Colin & Redding, Stephen & Weinstein, David E., 2014. "What is 'firm heterogeneity' in trade models? The role of quality, scope, markups and cost," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 60448, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Antoniades, Alexis, 2015. "Heterogeneous Firms, Quality, and Trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(2), pages 263-273.

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    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade

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