CEPII, Recherche et Expertise sur l'economie mondiale
Somatic Distance, Trust and Trade


Jacques Melitz
Farid Toubal

 Highlights :
  • Somatic distance, or differences in physical appearance, proves to be extremely important in the gravity model of bilateral trade in conformity with results in other areas of economics and outside in the social sciences and this is also true independently of survey evidence about bilateral trust.
  • Genetic distance, properly measured, proves to be a significant influence on bilateral trade together with somatic distance but its effect is fundamentally different from that of somatic distance. Somatic distance is also a more robust influence on bilateral trade than genetic distance.
  • Though trust, based on questionnaire answers, has no effect on bilateral trade, the only reasonable interpretation is that the effect of trust in the study remains buried in the other cultural variables.
  • The impact of somatic distance, like that of the rest of the cultural variables in the study, cannot be attributed strictly to trust. Therefore, somatic Somatic distance distance adds one more to the many reasons for distinguishing between bilateral and multilateral trade.

 Résumé :
Somatic distance, or differences in physical appearance, proves to be extremely important in the gravity model of bilateral trade in conformity with results in other areas of economics and outside in the social sciences. This is also true independently of survey evidence about bilateral trust. These findings are obtained in a sample of the 15 members of the European Economic Association in 1996. Robustness tests also show that somatic distance, as well as co-ancestry, has a more reliable influence on bilateral trade than the other cultural variables. The article finally discusses the interpretation and breadth of application of these results.

 Mots-clés : Somatic Distance | Cultural Interactions | Co-ancestry | Trust | Language | Bilateral Trade

 JEL : F10, F40, Z10
CEPII Working Paper
N°2018-11, September 2018

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 Domaines d'expertise

Commerce & Mondialisation
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