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The Variety and Quality of a Nation's Trade

  • David Hummels
  • Peter J. Klenow

Not surprisingly, big countries trade more than small countries. In this paper we use data on shipments by 110 exporters to 59 importers in 5,000 product categories to ask: how? Do big countries trade larger quantities of a common set of goods (the intensive margin), a larger set of goods (the extensive margin), or higher quality goods? We find that the extensive margin accounts for two-thirds of the greater exports of larger economies, and one-third of the greater imports of larger economies. Richer countries export more units at higher prices. These calculations are useful for distinguishing features of trade models that correspond more or less well to the data. Models with Armington national product differentiation do not feature the extensive margin, and wrongly predict that greater output will be accompanied by worse terms of trade. 'Krugman' style models with firm level product differentation fare better, but must be modified to include quality differentiation and fixed costs of trading to match all of the facts. Estimates based on these modifications imply that differences in goods' quality could be the proximate cause of about 25% of country differences in real income per worker.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8712.

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Date of creation: Jan 2002
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Publication status: published as Hummels, David and Peter J. Klenow. "The Variety And Quality Of A Nation's Exports," American Economic Review, 2005, v95(2,May), 704-723.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8712
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  1. Mark J. Melitz, 2002. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," NBER Working Papers 8881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ethier, Wilfred, 1979. "Internationally decreasing costs and world trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 1-24, February.
  3. Paul M. Romer, 1993. "New Goods, Old Theory, and the Welfare Costs of Trade Restrictions," NBER Working Papers 4452, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Feenstra, Robert C. & Madani, Dorsati & Yang, Tzu-Han & Liang, Chi-Yuan, 1999. "Testing endogenous growth in South Korea and Taiwan," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 317-341, December.
  5. Peter K. Schott, 2001. "Do Rich and Poor Countries Specialize in a Different Mix of Goods? Evidence from Product-Level US Trade Data," NBER Working Papers 8492, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Krugman, Paul R, 1981. "Intraindustry Specialization and the Gains from Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 959-73, October.
  7. Brown, Drusilla K., 1987. "Tariffs, the terms of trade, and national product differentiation," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 503-526.
  8. Daron Acemoglu & Jaume Ventura, 2001. "The World Income Distribution," NBER Working Papers 8083, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Keith Head & John Ries, 2001. "Increasing Returns versus National Product Differentiation as an Explanation for the Pattern of U.S.-Canada Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 858-876, September.
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