Formation of trade networks by economies of scale and product differentiation

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Understanding the structure and formation of networks is a central topic in complexity science. Economic networks are formed by decisions of individual agents and thus not properly described by established random graph models. In this article, we establish a model for the emergence of trade networks that is based on rational decisions of individual agents. The model incorporates key drivers for the emergence of trade, comparative advantage and economic scale effects, but also the heterogeneity of agents and the transportation or transaction costs. Numerical simulations show three macroscopically different regimes of the emerging trade networks. Depending on the specific transportation costs and the heterogeneity of individual preferences, we find centralized production with a star-like trade network, distributed production with all-to-all trading or local production and no trade. Using methods from statistical mechanics, we provide an analytic theory of the transitions between these regimes and estimates for critical parameters values.


Original languageEnglish
Article number025006
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Physics: Complexity
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023

External IDs

WOS 000974336100001


Research priority areas of TU Dresden


  • econophysics, network formation, phase transitions, Econophysics, Network formation, Phase transitions

Library keywords