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Deconstructing Gravity: Trade Costs and Extensive and Intensive Margins

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  • Lawless, Martina

Abstract

One of the most robust empirical results in international economics is the existence of a negative relationship between trade flows and distance. More recent research on exporting activity at the firm level has established an apparently equally robust result— few firms export, and exporting firms do not sell in all possible markets. This paper uses data on US exports across 156 countries to decompose exports to each market into the number of firms exporting (the extensive margin) and average export sales per firm (the intensive margin). We show how the effects of distance and a range of other proxies for trade costs have different impacts on the two margins. We find that distance has a negative effect on both margins, but the magnitude of the coefficient is considerably larger and more significant for the extensive margin. Most of the variables capturing language, internal geography, infrastructure and import cost barriers work solely through the extensive margin. We show that these results are consistent with the predictions of a Melitz-style model of trade with heterogeneous firm productivity and fixed costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Lawless, Martina, 2008. "Deconstructing Gravity: Trade Costs and Extensive and Intensive Margins," MPRA Paper 10230, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:10230
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David L. Hummels & Georg Schaur, 2013. "Time as a Trade Barrier," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(7), pages 2935-2959, December.
    2. Lawless, Martina, 2009. "Firm export dynamics and the geography of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 245-254, April.
    3. Thomas Chaney, 2008. "Distorted Gravity: The Intensive and Extensive Margins of International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1707-1721, September.
    4. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2004. "Trade Costs," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(3), pages 691-751, September.
    5. Elhanan Helpman & Marc J. Melitz & Stephen R. Yeaple, 2003. "Export versus FDI," NBER Working Papers 9439, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen J. Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2007. "Firms in International Trade," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 105-130, Summer.
    7. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2003. "Gravity with Gravitas: A Solution to the Border Puzzle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 170-192, March.
    8. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum & Francis Kramarz, 2004. "Dissecting Trade: Firms, Industries, and Export Destinations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 150-154, May.
    9. Simeon Djankov & Caroline Freund & Cong S. Pham, 2010. "Trading on Time," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 166-173, February.
    10. Anne-Célia Disdier & Keith Head, 2008. "The Puzzling Persistence of the Distance Effect on Bilateral Trade," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(1), pages 37-48, February.
    11. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf's Law for Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767.
    12. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
    13. Samuel S. Kortum, 1997. "Research, Patenting, and Technological Change," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(6), pages 1389-1420, November.
    14. Walter Isard, 1954. "Location Theory and Trade Theory: Short-Run Analysis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 305-320.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Gravity Model of Trade; Heterogeneous Firms; Extensive Margin;

    JEL classification:

    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade

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