Trade and economic growth: Does the sophistication of traded goods matter?

P. Niluka S.P. Ekanayake, Jakob B. Madsen, Tushar Bharati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Since the appearance of the seminal paper of Frankel and Romer (Am Econ Rev 89(3): 379–399, 1999), ‘Does trade cause growth?’, the impact of aggregate trade openness on income has been controversial. This research shows that the type of product that is traded has first-order effects, while overall trade intensity has second-order effects on per capita income because of (i) the hierarchical structure of learning-by-doing in products with different levels of sophistication of the production processes; and (ii) the fertility and education effects of trade specialization following the quantity–quality tradeoff framework of Galor and Mountford (Am Econ Rev 96(2): 299–303, 2006). Using data on trade disaggregated by the level of technological sophistication of the production process for 223 countries over the period 1962–2019, we find that (1) the effects of foreign trade on income differ widely across technology categories; (2) high-tech trade has permanent growth effects; and (3) a significant fraction of the impact of trade on income is mediated through education and fertility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-524
Number of pages44
JournalJournal of Economic Growth
Issue number4
Early online date4 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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