May 1991

The Econometrics of Elasticities or the Elasticity of Econometrics: An Empirical Analysis of the Behavior of U.S. Imports

Jaime Marquez


Fifty years of econometric modeling of U.S. import demand assumes that trade elasticities are autonomous parameters, that both cross-price effects and simultaneity biases are absent, and that expenditures on domestic and foreign goods can be studied independently of each other. To relax these assumptions, the paper assembles a simultaneous model explaining bilateral U.S. import volumes and prices. Spending behaves according to the Rotterdam model which, by design, embodies all of the properties of utility maximization and does not treat trade elasticities as autonomous parameters. Pricing behaves according to the pricing-to-market hypothesis which recognizes exporters' incentives to discriminate across export markets. Parameter estimation relies on the Full Information Maximum Likelihood (FIML) approach and uses bilateral price data for 1965-1987. According to the evidence, treating trade elasticities as autonomous parameters and ignoring the statistical implications of simultaneity and optimization impart significant biases to the structural estimates and undermine our effectiveness in addressing questions relevant to economic interactions among nations.

PDF: Full Paper

Disclaimer: The economic research that is linked from this page represents the views of the authors and does not indicate concurrence either by other members of the Board's staff or by the Board of Governors. The economic research and their conclusions are often preliminary and are circulated to stimulate discussion and critical comment. The Board values having a staff that conducts research on a wide range of economic topics and that explores a diverse array of perspectives on those topics. The resulting conversations in academia, the economic policy community, and the broader public are important to sharpening our collective thinking.

Back to Top
Last Update: March 05, 2021