American Economic Review: Vol. 95 No. 3 (June 2005)


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The Variety and Quality of a Nation's Exports

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Hummels, David, and Peter J. Klenow. 2005. "The Variety and Quality of a Nation's Exports." American Economic Review, 95(3): 704-723.

DOI: 10.1257/0002828054201396


Large economies export more in absolute terms than do small economies. We use data on shipments by 126 exporting countries to 59 importing countries in 5,000 product categories to answer the question: How? Do big economies export larger quantities of each good (the intensive margin), a wider set of goods (the extensive margin), or higher-quality goods? We find that the extensive margin accounts for around 60 percent of the greater exports of larger economies. Within categories, richer countries export higher quantities at modestly higher prices. We compare these findings to some workhorse trade models. Models with Armington national product differentiation have no extensive margin, and incorrectly predict lower prices for the exports of larger economies. Models with Krugman firm-level product differentiation do feature a prominent extensive margin, but overpredict the rate at which variety responds to exporter size. Models with quality differentiation, meanwhile, can match the price facts. Finally, models with fixed costs of exporting to a given market might explain the tendency of larger economies to export a given product to more countries.

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Hummels, David
Klenow, Peter J.

American Economic Review

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