Trade Costs, Quality, and The Skill Premium
Journal article in Canadian Journal of Economics, Volume 49, Issue 3: 1153–1178
ABSTRACT: We develop a monopolistic competition model with nonhomothetic factor input bundles where increasing quality requires increasing use of skilled workers. As a result more skill abundant countries export higher quality, higher priced goods. Using a multicountry dataset we test and confirm the findings in Schott (2004) of a positive effect of skill abundance on unit values identified with US data. We extend the core model with per unit trade costs leading to the Washington-apples effect that goods shipped over larger distance are of higher quality. The combination of high-quality goods being relatively skill intensive with the Washington-apples effect implies that countries at a larger distance from their trading partners display a higher skill premium. Simulating our model we find that a doubling of distance of a country relative to all its trading partners raises the skill premium in a country by about 2.3 percent.