Learning by Exporting: A Working Hypothesis
44 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2011 Last revised: 19 Apr 2016
Date Written: January 2, 2013
Case studies, anecdotal evidence and theory suggest that firms obtain valuable knowledge inputs from engaging in exporting. Yet the prevailing consensus is that good firms self-select into exporting while the evidence for an additional gain in productivity from entering into exporting – “learning by exporting” – is generally characterized to be weak or inconclusive. The literature on this issue is growing explosively and important methodological issues have been raised; accordingly, a solid consensus remains to be developed. Given that it is reasonably clear that learning by exporting is not ubiquitous but it does exist, this paper seeks to extract from the available evidence a working hypothesis regarding where and when it is likely to be found. Based on a survey of over 170 studies, it concludes that learning by exporting is found more or less where it would be expected, in younger, innovating firms based in less-advanced economies or in sectors for which external sources of learning, particularly in respect of not easily codified knowledge, can be important; which are operating at some distance from the technological frontier; which engage in exporting intensively rather than opportunistically; which interact directly with foreign markets rather than through domestic intermediaries; and which interact with more advanced markets.
Keywords: International trade, heterogeneous firms, learning by exporting
JEL Classification: F12, F13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation