NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Trade Restrictiveness and Deadweight Losses from U.S. Tariffs, 1859-1961

Douglas A. Irwin

NBER Working Paper No. 13450
Issued in September 2007
NBER Program(s):   DAE   ITI

This paper calculates the Anderson-Neary (2005) trade restrictiveness index (TRI) for the United States using nearly a century of data. The results show that the standard import-weighted average tariff understates the TRI, defined as the uniform tariff that yields the same welfare loss as the existing tariff structure, by about 75 percent. The static deadweight welfare loss from the U.S. tariff structure is about one percent of GDP after the Civil War, but falls almost continuously thereafter to less than one-tenth of one percent of GDP by the early 1960s. On average, import duties resulted in a welfare loss of 40 cents for every dollar of revenue generated, slightly higher than contemporary estimates of the marginal welfare cost of taxation.

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This paper was revised on January 7, 2009

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13450

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