Does Export Openness Increase Firm-level Output Volatility?

There is a widespread concern that increased trade may lead to increased instability and thus risk at the firm level. Greater export openness can indeed affect firm-level volatility by changing the exposure and the reaction of firms to macroeconomic developments. The net effect is ambiguous from a theoretical point of view. This paper provides firm-level evidence on the link between openness and volatility. Using comprehensive data on more than 21,000 German manufacturing firms for the period 1980–2001, we analyse the evolution of firm-level output volatility and the link between volatility and export openness. Our paper has three main findings. First, firm-level output volatility is significantly higher than the level of aggregate volatility, but it displays similar patterns. Second, increased export openness lowers firm-level output volatility. This effect is primarily driven by variations along the extensive margin, i.e. by the distinction between exporters and non-exporters. Variations along the intensive margin, i.e. the volume of exports, tend to have a dampening impact on volatility as well. Third, small firms are more volatile than large firms.

20. March 2009

Authors Claudia M. Buch Jörg Döpke H. Strotmann

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