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Human Capital, Product Quality, and Bilateral Trade

  • Michael E. Waugh

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)

In this paper, I develop a quantitative, general equilibrium theory of product quality and international trade. In the model, producers make choices regarding the quality/technology of their intermediate inputs given the set of endowments they have access to. This choice affects the producers ability to produce goods domestically and internationally, thus shaping the pattern of bilateral trade. In otherwise identical countries, optimizing behavior results in: (i) the high human capital country importing a relatively small volume of goods from the low human capital country and (ii) the low human capital country importing a relatively large volume of goods from the high human capital country --- qualitatively consistent with the observed volume of bilateral trade between rich and poor countries. I quantify the theory for a sample of 77 countries and show that it explains up to 90 percent of the variation in bilateral trade; twice the amount of alternative models with no role for human capital and product quality.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2009 Meeting Papers with number 1204.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed009:1204
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  1. Manning, Willard G. & Mullahy, John, 2001. "Estimating log models: to transform or not to transform?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 461-494, July.
  2. Douglas Gollin, 2002. "Getting Income Shares Right," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(2), pages 458-474, April.
  3. Michael E. Waugh, 2010. "International Trade and Income Differences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 2093-2124, December.
  4. Maurice Kugler & Eric Verhoogen, 2012. "Prices, Plant Size, and Product Quality," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(1), pages 307-339.
  5. R. Dornbusch & S. Fischer & P. A. Samuelson, 1976. "Comparative Advantage, Trade and Payments in a Ricardian Model With a Continuum of Goods," Working papers 178, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  6. Robert C. Feenstra & Robert E. Lipsey & Harry P. Bowen, 1997. "World Trade Flows, 1970-1992, with Production and Tariff Data," NBER Working Papers 5910, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 1997. "Capital-skill complementarity and inequality: a macroeconomic analysis," Staff Report 239, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Anonymous, 1997. "Research Updates," Journal of Food Distribution Research, Food Distribution Research Society, vol. 28(1), February.
  9. Hallak, Juan Carlos, 2006. "Product quality and the direction of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 238-265, January.
  10. 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.
  11. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
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