DP3000 | Comparative Advantage and the Cross-Section of Business Cycles

Publication Date

25/10/2001

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Abstract

Business cycles are both less volatile and more synchronized with the world cycle in rich countries than in poor ones. We develop two alternative explanations based on the idea that comparative advantage causes rich countries to specialize in industries that use new technologies operated by skilled workers, while poor countries specialize in industries that use traditional technologies operated by unskilled workers. Since new technologies are difficult to imitate, the industries of rich countries enjoy more market power and face more inelastic product demands than those of poor countries. Since skilled workers are less likely to exit employment as a result of changes in economic conditions, industries in rich countries face more inelastic labour supplies than those of poor countries. We show that each of these asymmetries in industry characteristics can generate cross-country differences in business cycles that resemble those we observe in the data.