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One Size Fits All? Heckscher-Ohlin Specialization in Global Production

  • Peter K. Schott

Many previous tests of Heckscher-Ohlin trade theory have found underwhelming support for the idea that countries' endowments determine their production and trade. This paper demonstrates that those efforts suffer from their focus on the narrower of the model's two potential equilibria, which assumes that all countries produce all goods. In this paper we introduce a more general technique for testing the model that allows for the possibility that countries with sufficiently disparate endowments specialize in unique subsets of goods. Results using this technique indicate strong support for Heckscher-Ohlin specialization versus one-size-fits-all homogeneity. Our results also demonstrate that the empirical evaluation of trade models has been hampered by the coarse aggregation of output inherent in existing datasets. Indeed, we show that traditional categorizations of goods hide a substantial degree of cross-country price and input intensity heterogeneity, violating the assumptions of the factor proportions framework and rendering previous estimation results difficult to interpret. To overcome this problem, we introduce a methodology for aggregating goods that corrects for underlying product variation. Estimation of the model using corrected aggregates reveals even stronger support for Heckscher-Ohlin specialization. The importance of specialization for the evolution of developed country wage inequality is also discussed.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8244.

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Date of creation: Apr 2001
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Publication status: published as Schott, Peter K. "One Size Fits All? Heckscher-Ohlin Specialization In Global Production," American Economic Review, 2003, v93(3,Jun), 686-708.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8244
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  1. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker Than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116, February.
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  3. Keith E. Maskus, 1991. "Comparing International Trade Data and Product and National Characteristics Data for the Analysis of Trade Models," NBER Chapters, in: International Economic Transactions: Issues in Measurement and Empirical Research, pages 17-60 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Bernstein, Jeffrey R. & Weinstein, David E., 2002. "Do endowments predict the location of production?: Evidence from national and international data," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 55-76, January.
  8. Deardorff, Alan V., 1994. "The possibility of factor price equalization, revisited," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1-2), pages 167-175, February.
  9. Robert J. Barro & Jong-Wha Lee, 1993. "International Comparisons of Educational Attainment," NBER Working Papers 4349, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Antonio Aquino, 1978. "Intra-industry trade and inter-industry specialization as concurrent sources of International Trade in manufactures," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer, vol. 114(2), pages 275-296, June.
  11. Leamer, E.E., 1995. "The Heckscher-Ohlin Model in Theory and Practice," Princeton Studies in International Economics 77, International Economics Section, Departement of Economics Princeton University,.
  12. Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Across-product Versus Within-product Specialization in International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 646-677, May.
  13. Trefler, Daniel, 1995. "The Case of the Missing Trade and Other Mysteries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1029-46, December.
  14. James Harrigan & Egon Zakrajsek, 2000. "Factor Supplies and Specialization in the World Economy," NBER Working Papers 7848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Deardorff, Alan V. & Staiger, Robert W., 1988. "An interpretation of the factor content of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1-2), pages 93-107, February.
  16. Harrigan, James, 1997. "Technology, Factor Supplies, and International Specialization: Estimating the Neoclassical Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 475-94, September.
  17. Peter K. Schott, 2001. "Do Countries Specialize?," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm173, Yale School of Management.
  18. James Harrigan, 2000. "The impact of the Asia crisis on U.S. industry: an almost-free lunch?," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 71-81.
  19. Andrew B. Bernard & Stephen Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2005. "Factor Price Equality and the Economies of the United States," CEP Discussion Papers dp0696, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  20. Debaere, Peter & Demiroglu, Ufuk, 2003. "On the similarity of country endowments," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 101-136, January.
  21. Davis, Donald R. & David E. Weinstein & Scott C. Bradford & Kazushige Shimpo, 1997. "Using International and Japanese Regional Data to Determine When the Factor Abundance Theory of Trade Works," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 421-46, June.
  22. Harry P. Bowen & Edward E. Leamer & Leo Sveikauskas, 1986. "Multicountry, Multifactor Tests of the Factor Abundance Theory," NBER Working Papers 1918, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Hanson, Gordon H. & Slaughter, Matthew J., 2002. "Labor-market adjustment in open economies: Evidence from US states," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 3-29, June.
  24. Alan V. Deardorff, 1974. "A Geometry of Growth and Trade," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 7(2), pages 295-306, May.
  25. Richard A. Brecher & Ehsan U. Choudhri, 1993. "Some Empirical Support for the Heckscher-Ohlin Model of Production," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(2), pages 272-85, May.
  26. Finger, J M, 1975. "Trade Overlap and Intra-Industry Trade," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 13(4), pages 581-89, December.
  27. Leamer, Edward E. & Maul, Hugo & Rodriguez, Sergio & Schott, Peter K., 1999. "Does natural resource abundance increase Latin American income inequality?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 3-42, June.
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