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Quantifying the Sources of Firm Heterogeneity

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  • Colin Hottman
  • Stephen J. Redding
  • David E. Weinstein

Abstract

We develop and structurally estimate a model of heterogeneous multiproduct firms that can be used to decompose the firm-size distribution into the contributions of costs, “appeal” (quality or taste), markups, and product scope. Using Nielsen bar-code data on prices and sales, we find that variation in firm appeal and product scope explains at least four fifths of the variation in firm sales. We show that the imperfect substitutability of products within firms, and the fact that larger firms supply more products than smaller firms, implies that standard productivity measures are highly dependent on implicit demand system assumptions and probably dramatically understate the relative productivity of the largest firms. Although most firms are well approximated by the monopolistic competition benchmark of constant markups, we find that the largest firms that account for most of aggregate sales depart substantially from this benchmark, and exhibit both variable markups and substantial cannibalization effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Colin Hottman & Stephen J. Redding & David E. Weinstein, 2014. "Quantifying the Sources of Firm Heterogeneity," NBER Working Papers 20436, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20436
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Feenstra, Robert C., 2018. "Restoring the product variety and pro-competitive gains from trade with heterogeneous firms and bounded productivity," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 16-27.
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    12. 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.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade

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