Do ﬁrms learn by exporting or learn to export? Evidence
from small and medium-sized enterprises
Accepted: 14 December 2010 / Published online: 21 January 2011
Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2011
Abstract Using a matching approach, we compare
the productivity trajectories of future export-entrants
and matched nonentrants. Future exporters have
higher productivity than do nonentrants before entry
into international markets, which indicates self-
selection into exports. More interestingly, we also
observe a productivity increase among export-
entrants relative to nonentrants before export entry.
This might be explained by higher investments in
physical capital prior to export entry. We ﬁnd no
evidence that the productivity gap between export-
entrants and nonentrants continues to grow after
export entry. Our results suggest that learning to
export occurs but that learning by exporting does not.
In contrast to previous studies on Swedish manufac-
turing, we focus particularly on small and medium-
sized enterprises (SMEs).
Keywords Productivity Á Learning to export Á
Learning by exporting Á Matching
JEL Classiﬁcations C23 Á D24 Á F14 Á L21 Á M16 Á
Numerous studies have documented that exporters
enjoy higher productivity than do nonexporters
within the same industry, controlling for observed
factors that may affect productivity.
In the literature,
two nonexclusive explanations have been put forward
to explain such export productivity premia: self-
selection and learning by exporting.
Self-selection means that only the more productive
ﬁrms can afford the higher cost of exporting. This
implies that future exporters have signiﬁcantly higher
productivity than do nonexporters before they start
exporting; productivity for future exporters is higher
K. Eliasson Á M. Lindvert
Growth Analysis, Studentplan 3, 831 40 O
Department of Economics, Umea
901 87 Umea
P. Hansson (&)
Growth Analysis, Box 574, 101 31 Stockholm, Sweden
Swedish Business School, O
701 82 O
Seminal articles are Bernard and Jensen (1995, 1999). The
literature has been surveyed by Greenaway and Kneller (2007)
and Wagner (2007).
Small Bus Econ (2012) 39:453–472