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Heterogeneous information and trade policy
Ponzetto, Giacomo A. M.
Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Departament d'Economia i Empresa
Protectionism enjoys surprising popular support, in spite of deadweight losses. At thesame time, trade barriers appear to decline with public information about protection.This paper develops an electoral model with heterogeneously informed voters whichexplains both facts and predicts the pattern of trade policy across industries. In themodel, each agent endogenously acquires more information about his sector of employment. As a result, voters support protectionism, because they learn more about thetrade barriers that help them as producers than those that hurt them as consumers.In equilibrium, asymmetric information induces a universal protectionist bias. Thestructure of protection is Pareto inefficient, in contrast to existing models. The modelpredicts a Dracula effect: trade policy for a sector is less protectionist when there ismore public information about it. Using a measure of newspaper coverage across industries, I find that cross-sector evidence from the United States bears out my theoreticalpredictions.
Macroeconomics and International Economics
imperfect information
media coverage
dracula effect
pareto inefficiency
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