Volatility and the Gains from Trade
By reducing the negative correlation between local prices and productivity shocks, trade liberalization changes the volatility of returns. In this paper, we explore the second moment effects of trade. Using forty years of agricultural micro-data from India, we show that falling trade costs increased farmer's revenue volatility, causing farmers to shift production toward crops with less risky yields. We then characterize how volatility affects farmer's crop allocation using a portfolio choice framework where returns are determined in general equilibrium by a many-location, many-good Ricardian trade model with flexible trade costs. Finally, we structurally estimate the model—recovering farmers' unobserved risk-return preferences from the gradient of the mean-variance frontier at their observed crop choice—to quantify the second moment effects of trade. While the expansion of the Indian highway network would have increased the volatility of farmer's real income had their crop choice remained constant, by changing what they produced farmers were able to avoid this increased volatility and amplify the gains from trade.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22276