NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Exports, Borders, Distance, and Plant Size

Thomas J. Holmes, John J. Stevens

NBER Working Paper No. 16046
Issued in June 2010
NBER Program(s):   ITI   PR

The fact that large manufacturing plants export relatively more than small plants has been at the foundation of much work in the international trade literature. We examine this fact using Census micro data on plant shipments from the Commodity Flow Survey. We show the fact is not entirely an international trade phenomenon; part of it can be accounted for by the effect of distance, distinct from any border effect. Export destinations tend to be further than domestic destinations, and large plants tend to ship further distances even to domestic locations, as compared with small plants. We develop an extension of the Melitz (2003) model and use it to set up an analysis with model interpretations of ratios between large plant and small plant shipments that can be calculated with the data. We obtain a decomposition of the overall ratio into a term that varies with distance, holding fixed the border, and a term that varies with the border, holding fixed the distance. The distance term accounts for more than half of the overall difference.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16046

Published: Holmes, Thomas J. & Stevens, John J., 2012. "Exports, borders, distance, and plant size," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 91-103.

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