The Quality-Complementarity Hypothesis: Theory and Evidence from Colombia

61 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2009

See all articles by Maurice Kugler

Maurice Kugler

Wilfrid Laurier University - School of Business & Economics; Harvard University - Center for International Development (CID); Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Eric A. Verhoogen

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Abstract

This paper presents a tractable formalization and an empirical investigation of the quality-complementarity hypothesis, the hypothesis that input quality and plant productivity are complementary in generating output quality. We embed this complementarity in a general-equilibrium trade model with heterogeneous, monopolistically competitive firms, extending Melitz (2003), and show that it generates distinctive implications for two simple, observable within-sector correlations - between output prices and plant size and between input prices and plant size - and for how those correlations vary across sectors. Using uniquely rich and representative data on the unit values of outputs and inputs of Colombian manufacturing plants, we then document three facts: (1) output prices are positively correlated with plant size within industries on average; (2) input prices are positively correlated with plant size within industries on average; and (3) both correlations are more positive in industries with more scope for quality differentiation, as measured by the advertising and R&D intensity of U.S. industries. The predicted and observed correlations between export status and input and output prices are similar to those for plant size. We present additional evidence that market power of either final-good producers or input suppliers does not fully explain the empirical patterns we observe. These findings are consistent with the predictions of our model and difficult to reconcile with alternative models that impose symmetry or homogeneity of either inputs or outputs. We interpret the results as broadly supportive of the quality-complementarity hypothesis.

Keywords: product quality, heterogeneous firms, international trade, plant size

JEL Classification: O1, F1, L1

Suggested Citation

Kugler, Maurice and Verhoogen, Eric A., The Quality-Complementarity Hypothesis: Theory and Evidence from Colombia. IZA Discussion Paper No. 3932, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1329570 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1329570

Maurice Kugler (Contact Author)

Wilfrid Laurier University - School of Business & Economics ( email )

Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3C5
CANADA

Harvard University - Center for International Development (CID) ( email )

One Eliot Street Building
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) ( email )

57 Erb Street West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 6C2
Canada

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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Eric A. Verhoogen

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) ( email )

420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

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