Absolute and Comparative Advantage

Self-Check Questions

True or False: The source of comparative advantage must be natural elements like climate and mineral deposits. Explain.

Hint:

False. Anything that leads to different levels of productivity between two economies can be a source of comparative advantage. For example, the education of workers, the knowledge base of engineers and scientists in a country, the part of a split-up value chain where they have their specialized learning, economies of scale, and other factors can all determine comparative advantage.

Brazil can produce 100 pounds of beef or 10 autos. In contrast the United States can produce 40 pounds of beef or 30 autos. Which country has the absolute advantage in beef? Which country has the absolute advantage in producing autos? What is the opportunity cost of producing one pound of beef in Brazil? What is the opportunity cost of producing one pound of beef in the United States?

Hint:

Brazil has the absolute advantage in producing beef and the United States has the absolute advantage in autos. The opportunity cost of producing one pound of beef is 1/10 of an auto; in the United States it is 3/4 of an auto.

In France it takes one worker to produce one sweater, and one worker to produce one bottle of wine. In Tunisia it takes two workers to produce one sweater, and three workers to produce one bottle of wine. Who has the absolute advantage in production of sweaters? Who has the absolute advantage in the production of wine? How can you tell?

Hint:

In answering questions like these, it is often helpful to begin by organizing the information in a table, such as in the following table. Notice that, in this case, the productivity of the countries is expressed in terms of how many workers it takes to produce a unit of a product.

Country One Sweater One Bottle of wine
France 1 worker 1 worker
Tunisia 2 workers 3 workers

In this example, France has an absolute advantage in the production of both sweaters and wine. You can tell because it takes France less labor to produce a unit of the good.