International Trade: Linking Micro and Macro
59 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2012 Last revised: 27 Oct 2014
Date Written: February 2012
A recent literature has introduced heterogeneous firms into models of international trade. This literature has adopted the convention of treating individual firms as points on a continuum. While the continuum offers many advantages this convenience comes at some cost: (1) Shocks to individual firms can never have an aggregate effect. (2) It is hard to reconcile the small (sometimes zero) number of firms engaged in selling from one country to another with a continuum. (3) For such models to deliver finite solutions for aggregates, such as the price index, requires restrictions on parameter values that may not hold in the data. We show how a standard heterogeneous-firm trade model can be amended to allow for only an integer number of firms. The model overcomes the deficiencies of the continuum model enumerated above. Taking the model to aggregate data on bilateral trade in manufactures among 92 countries and to firm-level export data for a much narrower sample shows that it accounts for both the large share of a small number of firms in sales around the world and for zeros in bilateral trade data while maintaining the good fit of the standard gravity equation among country pairs with thick trade volumes. Randomness at the firm level adds substantially to aggregate variability.
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