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"The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall": How Price Differences Across U.S. Cities Are Arbitraged

  • Paul G. J. O'Connell
  • Shang-Jin Wei

Recent empirical work has made headway in exploring the non-linear dynamics of deviations from the law of one price and" purchasing power parity that are apt to arise from transaction costs. However, there are two important facets of this work that need improvement. First, the choice of empirical specification is arbitrary. Second, the data used are typically composite price indices which are subject to potentially serious aggregation biases. This paper examines the evidence for transport-cost-induced nonlinear price behavior within the U.S. We address both of the above shortcomings. First, we use a simple continuous-time model to inform the choice of empirical specification. The model indicates that the behavior of deviations from price parity depends on the relative importance of fixed and variable transport costs. Second, we employ data on disaggregated commodity prices, yielding a pure' measure of the deviations from price parity. We find strong evidence of nonlinear reversion in these deviations. The nature of this reversion suggests that fixed costs of transportation are integral to an understanding of law-of-one-price deviations.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6089.

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Date of creation: Jul 1997
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Publication status: published as O'Connell, Paul G. J. and Shang-Jin Wei. "'The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall': Retail Price Differences Across U.S. Cities," Journal of International Economics, 2002, v56(1,Jan), 21-53.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6089
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  1. Papell, David H & Theodoridis, Hristos, 2001. "The Choice of Numeraire Currency in Panel Tests of Purchasing Power Parity," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 33(3), pages 790-803, August.
  2. Jorion, Philippe & Sweeney, Richard J., 1996. "Mean reversion in real exchange rates: evidence and implications for forecasting," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 535-550, August.
  3. Kenneth A. Froot & Kenneth Rogoff, 1994. "Perspectives on PPP and Long-Run Real Exchange Rates," NBER Working Papers 4952, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Abuaf, Niso & Jorion, Philippe, 1990. " Purchasing Power Parity in the Long Run," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(1), pages 157-74, March.
  5. Frankel, Jeffrey A. & Rose, Andrew K., 1996. "A panel project on purchasing power parity: Mean reversion within and between countries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1-2), pages 209-224, February.
  6. Benninga, Simon & Protopapadakis, Aris, 1988. "The equilibrium pricing of exchange rates and assets when trade takes time," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 129-149, June.
  7. Michael, Panos & Nobay, A Robert & Peel, David A, 1997. "Transactions Costs and Nonlinear Adjustment in Real Exchange Rates: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 862-79, August.
  8. Charles Engel & Michael K. Hendrickson & John H. Rogers, 1997. "Intra-National, Intra-Continental, and Intra-Planetary PPP," NBER Working Papers 6069, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Robert E. Cumby, 1996. "Forecasting Exchange Rates and Relative Prices with the Hamburger Standard: Is What You Want What You Get With McParity?," NBER Working Papers 5675, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Dumas, Bernard, 1992. "Dynamic Equilibrium and the Real Exchange Rate in a Spatially Separated World," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 5(2), pages 153-80.
  11. Papell, David H., 1997. "Searching for stationarity: Purchasing power parity under the current float," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3-4), pages 313-332, November.
  12. Papell, David H. & Theodoridis, Hristos, 1998. "Increasing evidence of purchasing power parity over the current float," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 41-50, February.
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