NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Changes in U.S. Tariffs: Prices or Policies?

Douglas A. Irwin

NBER Working Paper No. 5665
Issued in July 1996
NBER Program(s):   ITI   DAE

In the century after the Civil War, roughly two-thirds of U.S. dutiable imports were subject to specific duties whose ad valorem equivalent was inversely related to the price level. This paper finds that import price fluctuations easily dominate commercial policies (changes in rates of import duty) in bringing about changes in the average U.S. tariff from 1865-1973. About three-quarters of the post-Smoot Hawley decline in U.S. tariffs, for example, can be attributed to higher import prices, the remainder to negotiated reductions in tariff rates.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w5665

Published: American Economic Review (September 1998).

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