Trade, Domestic Frictions, and Scale Effects

Natalia Ramondo, Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, Milagro Saborío-Rodríguez

NBER Working Paper No. 18532
Issued in November 2012, Revised in October 2014
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth, International Trade and Investment

Because of scale effects, idea-based growth models have the counterfactual implication that larger countries should be much richer than smaller ones. New trade models share this same problematic feature: although small countries gain more from trade than large ones, this is not strong enough to offset the underlying scale effects. In fact, new trade models exhibit other counterfactual implications associated with scale effects – in particular, domestic trade shares and relative income levels increase too steeply with country size. We argue that these implications are largely a result of the standard assumption that countries are fully integrated domestically, as if they were a single dot in space. We depart from this assumption by treating countries as collections of regions that face positive costs to trade amongst themselves. The resulting model is largely consistent with the data. For example, for a small and rich country like Denmark, our calibrated model implies a real per-capita income of 81 percent the United States’s, much closer to the data (94 percent) than the trade model with no domestic frictions (40 percent).

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18532

Published: Natalia Ramondo & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare & Milagro Saborío-Rodríguez, 2016. "Trade, Domestic Frictions, and Scale Effects," American Economic Review, vol 106(10), pages 3159-3184. citation courtesy of

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