Contractual frictions and the patterns of trade: The role of generalized trust

G.O. Ndubuisi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Extant studies on the relationship between 'domestic institutions, comparative advantage, and international specialization' have primarily focused on formal institutions. This paper contributes to this literature by focusing on domestic informal contracting institutions vis-a-vis generalized trust as a source of comparative advantage. Employing a bilateral industry trade data, the paper finds robust evidence that countries with high generalized trust level export relatively more in industries that are prone to contractual frictions. Results on export margins further suggest that countries with a high generalized trust level enter more markets, ship more products to each destination, and have higher export per product and export intensities in those industries. On the one hand, the results reemphasize the importance of trust for improved economic performance. On the other hand, the results explain why a country endowed with weak formal domestic contracting institutions may still have a comparative cost advantage in contract intensive industries due to having strong domestic informal institutions such as generalized trust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-796
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of International Trade & Economic Development
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2020

JEL classifications

  • l14 - "Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation; Networks"
  • o24 - "Development Planning and Policy: Trade Policy; Factor Movement; Foreign Exchange Policy"


  • contractual frictions
  • economy
  • institutional quality
  • market
  • trade
  • trade margins
  • trust
  • Trust

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