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Title: Essays on product quality, international trade and welfare
Author: Baller, Silja Maren
ISNI:       0000 0000 4765 8986
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This dissertation consists of four related, sole-authored chapters. It considers the microeconomic mechanisms for gains from trade in the presence of quality investments by firms. It shows within the framework of a quality-augmented heterogeneous firms model that the quality dimension matters for welfare gains from trade. It also provides novel empirical evidence on adjustment mechanisms of aggregate quality as a consequence of globalization. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first contribution to provide a comprehensive analysis of the role of endogenous product quality in the determination of gains from trade. I first offer an explanation for observed industry heterogeneity in trade-induced productivity gains and show that results depend on whether or not firms have the option to invest in quality. I then take a broader view of welfare gains from trade, looking beyond productivity improvements. I find that globalization can imply a quality-variety trade-off when consumer quality preference is strong - a finding which holds under firm heterogeneity and symmetry. Nevertheless, overall gains from trade are positive. With quality being itself an important channel for gains from trade, I also investigate the detailed mechanisms by which aggregate quality changes as a consequence of globalization. This is done within the same theoretical heterogeneous firms framework as well as empirically using firm-level export data matched with firm-level quality ratings. I argue that firm heterogeneity matters for gains from trade by giving rise to an additional welfare channel in the presence of variable elasticity of demand preferences: high quality firms expand sales disproportionately in a larger market, thereby raising aggregate quality. This theoretical prediction is confirmed by the data. Furthermore, I study the mechanisms for gains from trade in a symmetric firms version of the baseline model. This allows me to isolate the role of firm heterogeneity in driving earlier results. In addition, I analyse the efficiency properties of the market equilibrium for the symmetric firms case.
Supervisor: Neary, J. Peter; Javorcik, Beata Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Economics ; Industrial economics ; Innovation,productivity and growth ; Macro and international economics ; Econometrics ; international economics ; international trade ; industrial organisation