William F. Lincoln, Andrew H. McCallum, and Michael Siemer | The collapse of international trade surrounding the Great Recession has garnered significant attention. This paper studies firm entry and exit in foreign markets and their role in the post-recession recovery of U.S. exports using confidential microdata from the U.S. Census Bureau. We find that incumbent exporters account for the vast majority of the decline in export volumes during the crisis. The recession also induced a missing generation of exporters, with large increases in exits and a substantial decline in entries into foreign markets. New exporters during these years tended to have larger export volumes, however, compensating for the decline in the number of exporting firms. Thus, while entry and exit were important for determining the variety of U.S. goods that were exported, they were less important for the trajectory of aggregate foreign sales.

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