Factor Intensity, Product Switching, and Productivity: Evidence from Chinese Exporters

Yue Ma
Heiwai Tang
Yifan Zhang

This paper analyzes the causal relations between …rms’ productivity, factor intensity and export participation. Using propensity score matching techniques and …rm-level panel data for Chinese manufacturing …rms over the 1998-2007 period, we …nd strong evidence of domestic …rms self-selecting into export markets with higher productivity ex ante, and enhanced productivity ex post. No such pattern is observed among foreign-invested …rms. We also …nd that both domestic and foreign new exporters exploit China’s low labor costs and specialize in their core competence, that is, …rms become less capital-intensive after exporting, relative to the matched non-exporting counterparts in the same industry. To rationalize these results that contrast with most …ndings in the existing literature, we develop a variant of the multi-product model of Bernard, Redding, and Schott (2010) to consider varying capital intensity across products. Using transaction-level export data, we …find evidence that Chinese exporters add new products that are more labor-intensive than existing products and drop products that are less labor- intensive, supporting the model predictions. Firms with a bigger decline in capital intensity after exporting are found to have a larger increase in measured TFP.

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