Esther Ann Bøler


Firm-to-firm Connections in Colombian Imports

with Andrew B. Bernard and Swati Dhingra, in World Trade Evolution -- Growth, Productivity and Employment, Routledge-ERIA Series in Development Economics, 2019

The vast majority of world trade flows is between firms. Only recently has research in international trade started to emphasize the importance of the connections between exporters and importers both in aggregate trade flows and in the negative relationship between trade and geographic distance. This chapter documents the role of firm-to-firm connections in trade flows and the formation and duration of these importer-exporter relationships. Using customs data from Colombia for 1995-2014, we are able to identify both the Colombian importing firm and the foreign exporter in every Colombian import and export transaction. We document both the nature of these bilateral trading relationships and their evolution over time.

Working across Time Zones: Exporters and the Gender Wage Gap

with Beata Javorcik and Karen Helene Ulltveit-Moe, Journal of International Economics 111, 2018
Media coverage: Vox, World Economic Forum, IB Knowledge

This study argues that there is a systematic difference in the gender wage gap (GWG) between exporting firms and non-exporters. Exporters may require greater commitment from their employees, such as working particular hours to communicate with partners in different time zones or travelling at short notice, and may therefore disproportionately reward employee flexibility. If women are less flexible, or perceived as such, exporters will exhibit a higher GWG than non-exporters. This hypothesis is examined using matched employer-employee data from the Norwegian manufacturing sector for 1996-2010. The results suggest a firm's entry into exporting increases the GWG by about 3 percentage points for college educated workers. A lower overlap in business hours between the Norwegian exporter and its foreign markets and a greater need need for interactions with foreign buyers are associated with a higher GWG.

Exporter Dynamics and Partial Year Effects

with Andrew B. Bernard, Renzo Massari, Jose-Daniel Reyes and Daria Taglioni, American Economic Review 107(10), 2017

Two identical firms that start exporting in different months, one each in January and December, will report dramatically different exports for the first calendar year. This partial-year effect biases down first year export levels and biases up first year export growth rates. For Peruvian exporters, the partial-year bias is large: first-year export levels are understated by 54 percent and the first year growth rate is overstated by 112 percentage points. Correcting the partial-year effect dramatically reduces first year export growth rates, raises initial export levels and almost doubles the contribution of net firm entry and exit to overall export growth.

R&D, International Sourcing and the Joint Impact on Firm Performance

with Andreas Moxnes and Karen Helene Ulltveit-Moe, American Economic Review 105(12), 2015
Media coverage: Vox
Cited by the 2016 Economic Report of the President, Chapter 5

This paper studies the impact of an R&D cost shock on R&D investments, imported inputs and their joint impact on firm performance. We introduce imported inputs into a model of R&D and endogenous productivity, and show that R&D and international sourcing are complementary activities. Exploiting the introduction of an R&D tax credit in Norway in 2002, we find that cheaper R&D stimulated not only R&D investments but also imports of intermediates, quantitatively consistent with the model. An implication of our work is that improved access to imported inputs promotes R&D investments and, ultimately, technological change.

Working papers

Strapped for cash: The role of financial constraints for innovating firms

with Andreas Moxnes and Karen Helene Ulltveit-Moe, CEPR Discussion Paper 18028, CESifo Working Paper 10320, CEP Discussion Paper 1905

This paper makes use of a reform that allowed firms to use patents as stand-alone collateral, to estimate the magnitude of collateral constraints and to quantify the aggregate impact of these constraints on misallocation and productivity. Using matched firm-bank data for Norway, we find that bank borrowing increased for firms affected by the reform relative to the control group. We also find an increase in the capital stock, employment and innovation as well as equity funding. We interpret the results through the lens of a model of monopolistic competition with potentially collateral constrained heterogeneous firms. Parameterizing the model using well-identified moments from the reduced form exercise, we find quantitatively large gains in output per worker in the sectors in the economy dominated by constrained (and intangible-intensive) firms. The gains are primarily driven by capital deepening, whereas within-industry misallocation plays a smaller role.

Technology-skill complementarity in a globalized world

Awarded the Best Paper Award at the 14th Annual Postgraduate Conference on Globalisation and Economic Policy, organised by GEP and CEPR, and the FREIT-EITI Best Graduate Paper Prize, 2016

This paper investigates skill-biased technical change at the firm level using rich Norwegian data. In the theoretical framework, firms invest in R&D to enhance their productivity which has a factor-neutral and a skill-biased component. Firms investing in R&D are found to have higher levels and growth rates of skill- biased productivity. The estimated growth rate of skill-biased productivity is sizable enough to account for the majority of the observed increase in the skill premium in Norway over the sample period. The results are supported by exploiting a policy change to estimate the causal effect of innovation on relative skill demand.