Determinants of the Expansion in Container Use in U.S. Trade

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This dissertation investigates empirically and quantitatively the determinants of containerization in the United States. Although containers were introduced in international trade in 1966, not all exports that could be containerized are containerized. The containerized share of containerizable exports grew from 61 percent in 2010 to 69 percent in 2018. The majority of this growth is driven by increase in the share of each product that is containerized, rather than a shift from exports of products that are less containerized towards exports of products that are highly containerized. This finding is consistent with supply shocks, such as declining container transport costs, as the driver of growth in containerization. Product-level regressions show that changes in containerized export shares respond negatively to changes in container transport costs caused by technological improvement in the container transport industry. I also find the effects are heterogeneous across products. Finally, to quantify the welfare gains associated with containerization, I develop a multi-country general equilibrium trade model with endogenous transport costs in which heterogeneous firms make both export and transport decisions.

Transportation, Transport Costs, Container Shipping, Trade Flows