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Universal Gravity


  • Costas Arkolakis

    (Yale University)

  • Treb Allen

    (Northwestern University)


What is the best way to reduce trade frictions when resources are scarce? To answer this question, we develop a framework that nests previous general equilibrium gravity models and show that the macro-economic implications of these various models depend crucially on two key model parameters, which we term the "gravity constants." Based only on the value of the gravity constants, we derive sufficient conditions for the existence and uniqueness of the trade equilibrium and, given observed trade flows, completely characterize all comparative statics for any change in bilateral trade frictions. We then develop a methodology for estimating these gravity constants without needing to assume a particular micro-foundation of the gravity trade model. Finally, we use these results to derive the set of trade friction reductions that (to a first-order) maximize welfare gains given an arbitrary constraint.

Suggested Citation

  • Costas Arkolakis & Treb Allen, 2015. "Universal Gravity," 2015 Meeting Papers 28, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed015:28

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Feenstra, Robert C., 2003. "A homothetic utility function for monopolistic competition models, without constant price elasticity," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 79-86, January.
    2. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum & Francis Kramarz, 2011. "An Anatomy of International Trade: Evidence From French Firms," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(5), pages 1453-1498, September.
    3. Treb Allen & Costas Arkolakis, 2014. "Trade and the Topography of the Spatial Economy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(3), pages 1085-1140.
    4. Arnaud Costinot, 2009. "An Elementary Theory of Comparative Advantage," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(4), pages 1165-1192, July.
    5. Costas Arkolakis & Natalia Ramondo & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare & Stephen Yeaple, 2013. "Innovation and Production in the Global Economy," NBER Working Papers 18972, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680, June.
    7. Costas Arkolakis & Arnaud Costinot & Dave Donaldson & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 2015. "The Elusive Pro-Competitive Effects of Trade," NBER Working Papers 21370, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Costas Arkolakis, 2010. "Market Penetration Costs and the New Consumers Margin in International Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(6), pages 1151-1199.
    9. Ariel Burstein & Javier Cravino, 2015. "Measured Aggregate Gains from International Trade," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 181-218, April.
    10. Costas Arkolakis & Svetlana Demidova & Peter J. Klenow & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 2008. "Endogenous Variety and the Gains from Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 444-450, May.
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    12. Costas Arkolakis & Arnaud Costinot & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 2012. "New Trade Models, Same Old Gains?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 94-130, February.
    13. Timothy J. Kehoe, 1985. "Multiplicity of Equilibria and Comparative Statics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(1), pages 119-147.
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    15. Lorenzo Caliendo & Fernando Parro, 2015. "Estimates of the Trade and Welfare Effects of NAFTA," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(1), pages 1-44.
    16. Ariel Burstein & Jonathan Vogel, 2017. "International Trade, Technology, and the Skill Premium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 125(5), pages 1356-1412.
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    Cited by:

    1. Egger, Peter H. & Nigai, Sergey, 2015. "Structural gravity with dummies only: Constrained ANOVA-type estimation of gravity models," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 86-99.
    2. Rodrigo Adao & Arnaud Costinot & Dave Donaldson, 2017. "Nonparametric Counterfactual Predictions in Neoclassical Models of International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(3), pages 633-689, March.
    3. repec:anr:reveco:v:9:y:2017:p:21-58 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Owen Zidar & Juan Carlos Serrato & Eduardo Morales & Pablo Fajgelbaum, 2015. "State Taxes and Spatial Misallocation," 2015 Meeting Papers 877, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Larch, Mario & Yotov, Yoto, 2016. "General Equilibrium Trade Policy Analysis with Structural Gravity," School of Economics Working Paper Series 2016-9, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University.
    6. Monte, Ferdinando & Redding, Stephen J. & Rossi-Hansberg, Esteban, 2015. "Commuting, Migration and Local Employment Elasticities," CEPR Discussion Papers 10933, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Konstantin Kucheryavyy & Gary Lyn & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 2016. "Grounded by Gravity: A Well-Behaved Trade Model with Industry-Level Economies of Scale," NBER Working Papers 22484, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Peter Egger & Kevin Staub, 2016. "GLM estimation of trade gravity models with fixed effects," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 137-175, February.
    9. Stephen J. Redding & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2017. "Quantitative Spatial Economics," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 9(1), pages 21-58, September.
    10. Ben Li & Penglong Zhang, 2016. "International Geopolitics," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 909, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 06 Feb 2017.
    11. Egger, Peter & Nigai, Sergey, 2015. "Structural Gravity with Dummies Only," CEPR Discussion Papers 10427, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Michel Fouquin & Jules Hugot, 2016. "Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations," VNIVERSITAS ECONÓMICA 015130, UNIVERSIDAD JAVERIANA - BOGOTÁ.
    13. Natalia Ramondo, 2015. "Innovation and Production in the Global Economy," 2015 Meeting Papers 183, Society for Economic Dynamics.

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    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade

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