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Foreign direct investment and relative wages: Evidence from Mexico's maquiladoras

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  • Feenstra, Robert C.
  • Hanson, Gordon H.

Abstract

In this paper, we examine the increase in the relative wages of skilled workers in Mexico during the 1980s. We argue that rising wage inequality in Mexico is linked to capital inflows from abroad. The effect of these capital inflows, which correspond to an increase in outsourcing by multinationals from the United States and other Northern countries, is to shift production in Mexico towards relatively skill-intensive goods thereby increasing the relative demand for skilled labor. We study the impact of foreign direct investment (FDI) on the share of skilled labor in total wages in Mexico using state-level data on two-digit industries from the Industrial Census for the period 1975 to 1988. We measure the state- level growth in FDI using data on the regional activities of foreign- owned assembly plants. We find that growth in FDI is positively correlated with the relative demand for skilled labor. In the regions where FDI has been most concentrated, growth in FDI can account for over 50 percent of the increase in the skilled labor share of total wages that occurred during the late 1980s.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of International Economics.

Volume (Year): 42 (1997)
Issue (Month): 3-4 (May)
Pages: 371-393

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Handle: RePEc:eee:inecon:v:42:y:1997:i:3-4:p:371-393

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505552

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  1. Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 1995. "Foreign Investment, Outsourcing and Relative Wages," NBER Working Papers 5121, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Aitken, B. & Hanson, G.H. & Harrison, A.E., 1994. "Spillovers, Foreign Investment and Export Behavior," Papers 95-06, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  3. Edward E. Leamer, 1992. "Wage Effects of A U.S. - Mexican Free Trade Agreement," NBER Working Papers 3991, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Griliches, Zvi, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-97, May.
  5. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  6. Robert Z Lawrence, 1994. "Trade, Multinationals and Labour," RBA Annual Conference Volume, in: Philip Lowe & Jacqueline Dwyer (ed.), International Intergration of the Australian Economy Reserve Bank of Australia.
  7. George J. Borjas & Valerie A. Ramey, 1993. "Foreign Competition, Market Power and Wage Inequality: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 4556, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Steve J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1991. "Wage Dispersion Between and Within U.S. Manufacturing Plants, 1963-1986," NBER Working Papers 3722, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Howard J. Shatz, 1994. "Trade and Jobs in Manufacturing," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(1), pages 1-84.
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