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Perspectives on Trade and Structural Transformation


  • George A. Alessandria
  • Robert C. Johnson
  • Kei-Mu Yi


This paper surveys macroeconomic and microeconomic perspectives on the role of international trade in structural transformation. We start by describing canonical frameworks that have been used to quantify how trade influences sectoral shares of employment and value added. We then pivot to survey micro-empirical evidence on the impact of changes in trade on the allocation of labor across sectors and productivity at the firm level. In this, we put special emphasis on the role of participation in global value chains and inward foreign direct investment in mediating these effects. Next, we evaluate evidence on the barriers to trade faced by low-income countries, with special attention to recent work that measures these costs taking firm dynamics into account. We conclude by discussing how these micro-perspectives can be integrated into macro-models to advance our understanding of structural change.

Suggested Citation

  • George A. Alessandria & Robert C. Johnson & Kei-Mu Yi, 2021. "Perspectives on Trade and Structural Transformation," NBER Working Papers 28720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:28720
    Note: DEV EFG ITI

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    Cited by:

    1. Albornoz, Facundo & Calvo Pardo, Héctor F. & Corcos, Gregory & Ornelas, Emanuel, 2023. "Sequentially exporting products across countries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 142(C).
    2. Muhumuza Ezra Rubanda & Livingstone Senyonga & Mohammed Ngoma & Muyiwa S. Adaramola, 2022. "Electricity Trading in Energy Market Integration: A Theoretical Review," Energies, MDPI, vol. 16(1), pages 1-31, December.
    3. Facundo Albornoz & Héctor F. Calvo Pardo & Gregory Corcos & Emanuel Ornelas, 2021. "Sequential Exporting across Countries and Products," CESifo Working Paper Series 9119, CESifo.
    4. Rohit, Kumar, 2023. "Global value chains and structural transformation: Evidence from the developing world," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 285-299.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity

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