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Plants and Productivity in International Trade

  • Andrew B. Bernard
  • Jonathan Eaton
  • J. Bradford Jenson
  • Samuel Kortum

We reconcile international trade theory with findings of enormous plant-level heterogeneity in exporting and productivity. Our model extends basic Ricardian theory to accommodate many countries, geographic barriers, and imperfect competition. Fitting the model to bilateral trade among the United States and its 46 major trade partners, we see how well it can explain basic facts about U.S. plants: (i) productivity dispersion, (ii) the productivity advantage of exporters, (iii) the small fraction who export, (iv) the small fraction of revenues from exporting among those that do, and (v) the much larger size of exporters. We pick up all these basic qualitative features, and go quite far in matching them quantitatively. We examine counterfactuals to assess the impact of various global shifts on productivity, plant entry and exit, and labor turnover in U.S. manufacturing.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7688.

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Date of creation: May 2000
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Andrew B. Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jensen & Samuel Kortum, 2003. "Plants and Productivity in International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1268-1290, September.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7688
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  1. Tor Jakob Klette & Zvi Griliches, 1992. "The Inconsistency of Common Scale Estimators When Output Prices Are Unobserved and Engogenous," NBER Working Papers 4026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Sofronis Clerides & Saul Lach & James Tybout, 1996. "Is "Learning-by-Exporting" Important? Micro-Dynamic Evidence from Colombia, Mexico and Morocco," NBER Working Papers 5715, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1991. "Quality Ladders in the Theory of Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(1), pages 43-61, January.
  4. Samuel S. Kortum, 1997. "Research, Patenting, and Technological Change," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(6), pages 1389-1420, November.
  5. Campa, Jose & Goldberg, Linda S., 1995. "Investment in manufacturing, exchange rates and external exposure," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 297-320, May.
  6. Head, Keith & Ries, John, 1999. "Rationalization effects of tariff reductions," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 295-320, April.
  7. Roberts, Mark J & Tybout, James R, 1997. "The Decision to Export in Colombia: An Empirical Model of Entry with Sunk Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 545-64, September.
  8. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
  9. Eaton, Jonathan & Kortum, Samuel, 1999. "International Technology Diffusion: Theory and Measurement," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 40(3), pages 537-70, August.
  10. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen, 2000. "Exporting and Productivity," Working Papers 00-07, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  11. Linda Goldberg & Joseph Tracy, 2001. "Exchange Rates and Wages," NBER Working Papers 8137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Bee Yan Aw & Sukkyun Chung & Mark J. Roberts, 1998. "Productivity and the Decision to Export: Micro Evidence from Taiwan and South Korea," NBER Working Papers 6558, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Dornbusch, Rudiger & Fischer, Stanley & Samuelson, Paul A, 1977. "Comparative Advantage, Trade, and Payments in a Ricardian Model with a Continuum of Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 823-39, December.
  14. Bernard, A., 1997. "Exceptional Exporter Performance: Cause, Effect, or Both?," Working papers 97-21, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  15. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
  16. Krugman, Paul R., 1979. "Increasing returns, monopolistic competition, and international trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 469-479, November.
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