Does Machine Translation Affect International Trade? Evidence from a Large Digital Platform
Artificial intelligence (AI) is surpassing human performance in a growing number of domains. However, there is limited evidence of its economic effects. Using data from a digital platform, we study a key application of AI: machine translation. We find that the introduction of a machine translation system has significantly increased international trade on this platform, increasing exports by 17.5%. Furthermore, heterogeneous treatment effects are all consistent with a substantial reduction in translation-related search costs. Our results provide causal evidence that language barriers significantly hinder trade and that AI has already begun to improve economic efficiency in at least one domain.
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24917