About Me

I have made numerous contributions to the theory of international trade and trade policy.  Like most economists, I am a convinced liberal trader.

Index numbers of trade policy were and are a focus of my research. (How high are trade barriers, understanding that there are thousands of them?) My book with Peter Neary (MIT Press, Dec. 2005) integrates and extends this work. Other research focuses on insecurity and its implicit effect on trade. (How much does predation, corruption and poor enforceability of contract limit trade? How do institutions evolve to enable and secure trade?

Another strand of research focuses on inference about `natural’ forms of trade barriers (e.g. distance, borders and languages) that are implicit in trade patterns. I am best known for the economic theory of gravity (AER, 1979) that lays structural economic foundations for this inference. Multilateral resistance indexes capture the effect on bilateral trade of the partners’ trade costs with all other parties. Applications resolve the border puzzle (why the US-Canada border appears so costly; AER, 2003) and the mystery of the missing globalization (why gravity coefficients are constant yet trade/GDP rises; NBER, 2008, AER 2010). My survey on the gravity model is in Annual Review of Economics, 2011. Related research estimates the volume effects of free trade agreements and infers from them the terms of trade effects (JIE, 2016). More recent work focuses on short run gravity and its relation to long run gravity (JIE, 2020) and entry into exporting (EJ, 2022) and production (NBER 2020).

I currently serve on the Editorial Board of the Review of International Economics, and have served on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of International Economics and the American Economic Review. I am a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and appear in Who’s Who in Economics, 3rd Edition. In 1999 I received a Boston College Distinguished Senior Research Award. In 2004 I was appointed William B. Neenan Millenium Professor of Economics at Boston College, the Economics Department’s first endowed chair. I served as Department chair 6/2009 to 6/2012.

I enjoy tennis, running, biking and skiing, especially Nordic. In quieter moments of leisure I consume quantities of novels, biographies and histories. My current favorite recommendation as a mind-expanding book very broadly about trade for anyone is Paul Seabright’s The Company of Strangers. In the same big picture history line I also recommend Fernand Braudel’s The Wheels of Commerce, William McNeill’s The Rise of the West and Joel Mokyr’s The Lever of Riches. For real economic history in this vein I recommend the papers of my former student Luigi Pascali. For really big picture speculative fiction my favorite is Olaf Stapledon’s classic Last and First Men. A modern instant classic is Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem. Daniel Kahnemann’s Thinking Fast and Slow has altered my view of human nature.