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The Space of Gravity: Spatial Filtering Estimation of a Gravity Model for Bilateral Trade


  • Roberto Patuelli

    () (Department of Economics, University of Bologna, Italy; The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis, Italy)

  • Gert-Jan Linders

    () (Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, The Netherlands)

  • Rodolfo Metulini

    () (IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca, Italy)

  • Daniel A. Griffith

    () (School of Economic, Political & Policy Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas, USA)


Bilateral trade flows traditionally have been analysed by means of the spatial interaction gravity model. Still, (auto)correction of trade flows has only recently received attention in the literature. This paper takes up this thread of emerging literature, and shows that spatial filtering (SF) techniques can take into account the autocorrelation in trade flows. Furthermore, we show that the use of origin and destination specific spatial filters goes a long way in correcting for omitted variable bias in an otherwise standard empirical gravity equation. For a cross-section of bilateral trade flows, we compare an SF approach to two benchmark specifications that are consistent with theoretically derived gravity. The results are relevant for a number of reasons. First, we correct for autocorrelation in the residuals. Second, we suggest that the empirical gravity equation can still be considered in applied work, despite the theoretical arguments for its misspecification due to omitted multilateral resistance terms. Third, if we include SF variables, we can still resort t any desired estimator, such as OLS, Poisson or negative binomial regression. Finally, interpreting endogeneity bias as autocorrelation in regressor variables and residuals allows for a more general specification of the gravity equation than the relatively restricted theoretical gravity equation. In particular, we can include additional country-specific push and pull variables, besides GDP (e.g., land area, landlockedness, and per capita GDP). A final analysis provides autocorrelation diagnostics according to different candidate indicators.

Suggested Citation

  • Roberto Patuelli & Gert-Jan Linders & Rodolfo Metulini & Daniel A. Griffith, 2015. "The Space of Gravity: Spatial Filtering Estimation of a Gravity Model for Bilateral Trade," Working Paper series 15-27, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
  • Handle: RePEc:rim:rimwps:15-27

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    Cited by:

    1. Rodolfo Metulini & Roberto Patuelli & Daniel A. Griffith, 2018. "A Spatial-Filtering Zero-Inflated Approach to the Estimation of the Gravity Model of Trade," Econometrics, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(1), pages 1-15, February.
    2. Seok, Jun Ho & Reed, Michael Robert & Saghaian, Sayed, 3. "The Impact Of Sqf Certification On U.S. Agri-Food Exports," International Journal of Food and Agricultural Economics (IJFAEC), Alanya Alaaddin Keykubat University, Department of Economics and Finance, vol. 4(3).
    3. Clément Gorin, 2016. "Patterns and determinants of inventors’ mobility across European urban areas," Working Papers 1615, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    4. repec:spr:empeco:v:54:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s00181-016-1220-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Tom Broekel & Pierre-Alexandre Balland & Martijn Burger & Frank Oort, 2014. "Modeling knowledge networks in economic geography: a discussion of four methods," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 53(2), pages 423-452, September.
    6. Clément Gorin, 2016. "Patterns and determinants of inventors' mobility across European urban areas," Working Papers halshs-01313086, HAL.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General

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