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Consumer Heterogeneity and the Impact of Trade Liberalization: How Representative is the Representative Agent Framework?

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  • Raphael Anton Auer

Abstract

While it is well established that across-country taste differences are associated with "home market effects", there is very limited analysis of how such preference heterogeneity impacts the aggregate volume of trade and the welfare gains from liberalization. I develop a structural model of aggregate demand featuring products with heterogeneous attributes, consumers with heterogeneous tastes for attributes, and across-country differences in the distribution of tastes. The impact of across-country taste differences depends on whether the domestic industry can adjust to the mismatch between the attribute composition of imports and the domestic distribution of tastes. For the case of a large degree of across-country taste differences, countries specialize completely and the model supports notions along the lines of Linder (1961) that taste diversity impedes the volume of trade and leads to group-specific gains from trade. In contrast, if specialization is incomplete, free firm entry implies that the relative toughness of competition across different market segments must be invariant to liberalization. It is shown that therefore, both trade volume and welfare gains are entirely unaffected by the distribution of foreign tastes and coincide with those in a representative agent framework.

Suggested Citation

  • Raphael Anton Auer, 2010. "Consumer Heterogeneity and the Impact of Trade Liberalization: How Representative is the Representative Agent Framework?," Working Papers 2010-13, Swiss National Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:snb:snbwpa:2010-13
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Pablo Fajgelbaum & Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2011. "Income Distribution, Product Quality, and International Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(4), pages 721-765.
    2. Claudia Bernasconi, 2013. "Similarity of income distributions and the extensive and intensive margin of bilateral trade flows," ECON - Working Papers 115, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    3. Alexander Osharin & Valery Verbus, 2018. "Heterogeneity of consumer preferences and trade patterns in a monopolistically competitive setting," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 125(3), pages 211-237, November.
    4. Alexander Osharin & Valery Verbus & Irina Bakunina & Vera Silaeva & Marina Silaeva, 2020. "Markups in a two-country monopolistic competition model of trade with heterogeneous consumers," Journal of Economic Structures, Springer;Pan-Pacific Association of Input-Output Studies (PAPAIOS), vol. 9(1), pages 1-12, December.
    5. Auer, Raphael A., 2017. "Product heterogeneity, cross-country taste differences, and the growth of world trade," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 1-27.
    6. Jessie Handbury, 2019. "Are Poor Cities Cheap for Everyone? Non-Homotheticity and the Cost of Living Across U.S. Cities," NBER Working Papers 26574, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Intra-Industry Trade; Monopolistic Competition; Heterogeneous Agents; Industrial Structure; Firm Dynamics;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • L16 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Industrial Organization and Macroeconomics; Macroeconomic Industrial Structure

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