Estimating firm product quality using trade data Articles uri icon


  • Piveteau, Paul

publication date

  • May 2019

start page

  • 217

end page

  • 232


  • 118

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-1996

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-0353


  • We propose a new instrumental variable strategy to estimate product quality at the firm-level, using trade data. Interacting firm importing shares by country with real exchange rates (RER), we obtain a cost shifter that varies across firms and is arguably orthogonal to product quality. We use this import weighted RER as an instrument for export prices and we identify firm-level quality from residual export variations, after controlling for prices. Our quality estimates correlate to firm characteristics (e.g. wages) and to alternative measures of quality available for some rare sectors. Moreover, we document cases in which our estimates more adequately characterize quality compared to prices, a popular proxy for quality. We show for instance that firms add products to their export portfolio when their quality increases, as expected, while simultaneously their prices decrease. This suggests that our empirical strategy, by delivering quality estimates which, unlike prices, are not polluted with productivity variations, should contribute to future research on the link between firm-level product quality and globalization.


  • demand estimation; international trade; product quality