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Reassessing the Evolution of World Trade, 1870-1949

  • Klasing, Mariko
  • Milionis, Petros

The typical narrative regarding the evolution of world trade prior to World War II refers to a secular rise that started around 1870 and a subsequent collapse that began in 1914. This narrative, though, is based on measures of trade openness that do not fully take into account purchasing power differences across countries, as in the literature non-PPP-adjusted trade data are typically denominated by PPP-adjusted GDP data. The present paper seeks to resolve this inconsistency by constructing new trade share estimates for 51 countries spanning the period from 1870 to 1949 by combining historical import and export data with non-PPP-adjusted GDP values that we estimate via the "short-cut" method. Our estimates indicate a much more pronounced rise and fall of world trade over this period with trade shares being on average 32% higher than previously documented and the world's level of openness to trade in 1913 being comparable to that in 1974. In addition, performing a similar correction for purchasing power differences in the context of standard gravity regressions for the 1870-1939 period we find that the existing literature has overestimated the importance of income movements during this period relative to tariffs changes and the evolution of the gold standard.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 39555.

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Date of creation: Jun 2012
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:39555
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  1. Lopez-Cordova, J. Ernesto & Meissner, Chris, 2000. "Exchange-Rate Regimes and International Trade: Evidence from the Classical Gold Standard Era," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt1b04r034, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  2. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro, 2000. "International Comparisons of Real Product, 1820-1990: An Alternative Data Set," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 1-41, January.
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  8. Antoni Estevadeordal & Brian Frantz & Alan M. Taylor, 2002. "The Rise and Fall of World Trade, 1870-1939," NBER Working Papers 9318, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. David, Paul A, 1972. "Just How Misleading Are Official Exchange Rate Conversions?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 82(327), pages 979-90, September.
  11. Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2001. "Globalization and History: The Evolution of a Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Economy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262650592, June.
  12. Eichengreen, Barry & Irwin, Douglas A., 1995. "Trade blocs, currency blocs and the reorientation of world trade in the 1930s," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(1-2), pages 1-24, February.
  13. David S Jacks & Krishna Pendakur, 2010. "Global Trade and the Maritime Transport Revolution," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 745-755, November.
  14. Baier, Scott L. & Bergstrand, Jeffrey H., 2001. "The growth of world trade: tariffs, transport costs, and income similarity," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-27, February.
  15. Paul Krugman, 1995. "Growing World Trade: Causes and Consequences," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(1, 25th A), pages 327-377.
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  17. Smits, J.-P. & Woltjer, P. & Ma, D., 2009. "A Dataset on Comparative Historical National Accounts, ca.1870-1950: A Time-Series Perspective," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-107, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
  18. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521633178 is not listed on IDEAS
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