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Trade, Factor Proportions and Political Rights


  • Tavares, Jose


This paper tests the implication of the Stolper-Samuelson theorem that capital-poor individuals prefer more trade openness in poor (capital-scarce) countries and less trade in rich (labor-scarce) countries, by using a broad panel of countries and new exogenous determinants of trade openness. According to the seminal work in Mayer (1984), capital-poor individuals prefer more trade openness in poor (capital-scarce) countries and less trade openness in rich (labor-scarce) countries. We use the level of political rights as a proxy for the relative capital-labor endowment of the median voter so that an increase in political rights should have asymmetric effects in poor and rich countries: an increase in political rights should lead to more openness in capital poor countries and less openness in capital rich countries. Our results show that, while both income per capita and political rights are positively associated with import intensity, their interaction has a negative and very robust negative association with openness. Increases in political rights lead to sizeable decreases in import intensity after a given income per capita threshold has been surpassed. Our results are robust to the inclusion of structural, geography and cultural determinants of openness, different estimation methods and different proxies for country endowments.

Suggested Citation

  • Tavares, Jose, 2003. "Trade, Factor Proportions and Political Rights," FEUNL Working Paper Series wp437, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia.
  • Handle: RePEc:unl:unlfep:wp437

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mussa, Michael, 1974. "Tariffs and the Distribution of Income: The Importance of Factor Specificity, Substitutability, and Intensity in the Short and Long Run," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1191-1203, Nov.-Dec..
    2. Kenneth F. Scheve & Matthew J. Slaughter, 1998. "What Determines Individual Trade Policy Preferences?," NBER Working Papers 6531, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Mayda, Anna Maria & Rodrik, Dani, 2005. "Why are some people (and countries) more protectionist than others?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(6), pages 1393-1430, August.
    4. Tavares, Jose & Wacziarg, Romain, 2001. "How democracy affects growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(8), pages 1341-1378, August.
    5. Edward J. Balistreri, 1997. "The Performance of the Heckscher-Ohlin-Vanek Model in Predicting Endogenous Policy Forces at the Individual Level," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 30(1), pages 1-17, February.
    6. Jong-Wha Lee & Phillip Swagel, 2000. "Trade Barriers And Trade Flows Across Countries And Industries," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(3), pages 372-382, August.
    7. Donald R. Davis, 1996. "Trade Liberalization and Income Distribution," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1769, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    8. Dutt, Pushan & Mitra, Devashish, 2002. "Endogenous trade policy through majority voting: an empirical investigation," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 107-133, October.
    9. Francisco Rodriguez & Dani Rodrik, 1999. "Trade Policy and Economic Growth: A Skeptic's Guide to Cross-National Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7081, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Alberto Alesina & Romain Wacziarg, 1997. "Openness, Country Size and the Government," NBER Working Papers 6024, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cervellati, Matteo & Naghavi, Alireza & Toubal, Farid, 2013. "Trade Liberalization, Democratization and Technology Adoption," IZA Discussion Papers 7132, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Roy, Martin, 2010. "Endowments, power, and democracy: Political economy of multilateral commitments on trade in services," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2010-11, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.

    More about this item


    Trade Openness; Factor Proportions; Political Rights; Stolper-Samuelson Effects;

    JEL classification:

    • F0 - International Economics - - General
    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration
    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F11 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Neoclassical Models of Trade
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models


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