Laura Alfaro, Pol Antràs, Davin Chor, Paola Conconi, 14 November 2015

Trade in intermediate inputs now accounts for as much as two-thirds of international trade. Firms must decide which segments of their production processes to own and which to outsource. Using global plant-level data, this column empirically examines firms’ organisational choices along value chains. Decisions to integrate or outsource upstream and downstream functions are found to depend on demand elasticity relative to the substitutability of inputs. These results provide strong evidence that integration decisions are driven by contractual frictions.

Wilhelm Kohler, Marcel Smolka, 20 February 2015

The share of international trade within firm boundaries varies greatly across countries.

This column presents new evidence on how the productivity of a firm affects the choice between vertical integration and outsourcing, as well as between foreign and domestic sourcing. The productivity effects found in Spanish firm-level data suggest that contractual imperfections distort the sourcing of inputs in the global economy, and that firm boundaries emerge in response to mitigate this distortion.

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