The Quality-Complementarity Hypothesis: Theory and Evidence from Colombia

62 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2009

See all articles by Maurice Kugler

Maurice Kugler

United Nations Development Programme

Eric A. Verhoogen

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: January 2009

Abstract

This paper presents a tractable formalization and an empirical investigation of the quality-complementarity hypothesis, the hypothesis that input quality and plant productivity are complementary in generating output quality. We embed this complementarity in a general-equilibrium trade model with heterogeneous, monopolistically competitive firms, extending Melitz (2003), and show that it generates distinctive implications for two simple, observable within-sector correlations - between output prices and plant size and between input prices and plant size - and for how those correlations vary across sectors. Using uniquely rich and representative data on the unit values of outputs and inputs of Colombian manufacturing plants, we then document three facts: (1) output prices are positively correlated with plant size within industries on average; (2) input prices are positively correlated with plant size within industries on average; and (3) both correlations are more positive in industries with more scope for quality differentiation, as measured by the advertising and R&D intensity of U.S. industries. The predicted and observed correlations between export status and input and output prices are similar to those for plant size. We present additional evidence that market power of either final-good producers or input suppliers does not fully explain the empirical patterns we observe. These findings are consistent with the predictions of our model and difficult to reconcile with alternative models that impose symmetry or homogeneity of either inputs or outputs. We interpret the results as broadly supportive of the quality-complementarity hypothesis.

Keywords: heterogeneous firms, international trade, plant size, product quality

JEL Classification: F1, L1, O1

Suggested Citation

Kugler, Maurice and Verhoogen, Eric A., The Quality-Complementarity Hypothesis: Theory and Evidence from Colombia (January 2009). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP7119, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1345645

Maurice Kugler

United Nations Development Programme ( email )

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New York, NY 10017
United States

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Eric A. Verhoogen (Contact Author)

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) ( email )

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New York, NY 10027
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

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