Empirical studies of production units within sectors have reported a massive amount of heterogeneity in various performance measures (most notably, size and productivity). This heterogeneity, within sectors, matters for theoretical and empirical models of trade. Trade, or trade liberalization more generally, induces important reallocations between heterogeneous producers in a sector: the smallest or least productive producers are forced to exit, and market shares are further reallocated between less productive producers (who do not export) towards larger, more productive exporters. These reallocations generate a new channel for productivity and welfare gains from trade.
We develop a simple model of international trade with heterogeneous firms that is consistent with a number of stylized features of the data. In particular, the model predicts positive as well as zero trade flows across pairs of countries, and it allows the number of exporting firms to vary across destination countries. As a result, the impact of trade frictions on trade flows can be decomposed into the intensive and extensive margins, where the former refers to the trade volume per exporter and the latter refers to the number of exporters. This model yields a generalized gravity equation that accounts for the self-selection of firms into export markets and their impact on trade volumes. We then develop a two-stage estimation procedure that uses an equation for selection into trade partners in the first stage and a trade flow equation in the second. We implement this procedure parametrically, semiparametrically, and nonparametrically, showing that in all three cases the estimated effects of trade frictions are similar. Importantly, our method provides estimates of the intensive and extensive margins of trade. We show that traditional estimates are biased and that most of the bias is due not to selection but rather due to the omission of the extensive margin. Moreover, the effect of the number of exporting firms varies across country pairs according to their characteristics. This variation is large and particularly so for trade between developed and less developed countries and between pairs of less developed countries.
We develop a monopolistically competitive model of trade with firm heterogeneity—in terms of productivity differences—and endogenous differences in the “toughness” of competition across markets—in terms of the number and average productivity of competing firms. We analyse how these features vary across markets of different size that are not perfectly integrated through trade; we then study the effects of different trade liberalization policies. In our model, market size and trade affect the toughness of competition, which then feeds back into the selection of heterogeneous producers and exporters in that market. Aggregate productivity and average mark-ups thus respond to both the size of a market and the extent of its integration through trade (larger, more integrated markets exhibit higher productivity and lower mark-ups). Our model remains highly tractable, even when extended to a general framework with multiple asymmetric countries integrated to different extents through asymmetric trade costs. We believe this provides a useful modelling framework that is particularly well suited to the analysis of trade and regional integration policy scenarios in an environment with heterogeneous firms and endogenous mark-ups.