Journal Article

Prices, Plant Size, and Product Quality

Maurice Kugler and Eric Verhoogen

in The Review of Economic Studies

Published on behalf of Review of Economic Studies Ltd

Volume 79, issue 1, pages 307-339
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0034-6527
Published online November 2011 | e-ISSN: 1467-937X | DOI:
Prices, Plant Size, and Product Quality

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  • International Trade
  • Economic Development
  • Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance


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Drawing on uncommonly rich and representative data from the Colombian manufacturing census, this paper documents new empirical relationships between input prices, output prices, and plant size and proposes a model of endogenous input and output quality choices by heterogeneous firms to explain the observed patterns. The key empirical facts are that, on average within narrowly defined sectors, (1) larger plants charge more for their outputs and (2) larger plants pay more for their material inputs. The latter fact generalizes the well-known positive correlation between plant size and wages. Similar correlations hold between prices and export status. We show that the empirical patterns are consistent with a parsimonious extension of the Melitz (2003, “The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity,” Econometrica, 71, 1695–1725) framework to include endogenous choice of input and output quality. Using a measure of the scope for quality differentiation from Sutton (1998, Technology and Market Structure: Theory and History. Cambridge: MIT Press), we show that differences across sectors in the relationships between prices and plant size are consistent with our model. Available evidence suggests that differences in observable measures of market power do not provide a complete explanation for the empirical patterns. We interpret the results as supportive of the hypothesis that quality differences of both inputs and outputs play an important role in generating the price–plant size correlations.

Keywords: Product prices; Quality; Plant size; Heterogeneous firms; L11; F12; O14

Journal Article.  16881 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: International Trade ; Economic Development ; Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance

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