Understanding the U.S. Export Boom
NBER Working Paper No. 6438
U.S. exports grew at a rate of 8.2% per year from 1987-1994, far faster than the economy as a whole or even the manufacturing sector. This paper examines the source of this export boom and argues that the boom itself has been less remarkable for the rate of growth of exports than for the striking increase in export intensity. This increase in export intensity has occurred both in the aggregate and for individual plants across a wide range of industries. Competing explanations for the rise in exports are tested with a comprehensive plant level data set. Changes in exchange rates and rises in foreign income are the dominant sources for the export increase, while productivity increases in U.S. plants play a relatively small role. The results suggest that slower growth rates of U.S. trading partners and an appreciation of the dollar will have strong negative effects on the growth rate of U.S. manufacturing exports.