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Trade and the Skill Premium Puzzle with Capital Market Imperfections

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  • Bonfatti, Roberto
  • Ghatak, Maitreesh

Abstract

An interesting puzzle is that trade liberalization in the 1980s and 1990s has been associated with a sharp increase in the skill premium in both developed and developing countries. This is in contrast with neoclassical theory, according to which trade should increase the relative return of the relatively abundant factor. We develop a simple model of trade with capital market imperfections, and show that trade can increase the skill premium in both the North and the South, and both in the short run as well as in the long run. We show that trade with a skill-intensive economy has two effects: it reduces the skilled wage, and thus discourages non talented agents out of the skilled labor force; and it reduces the cost of subsistence, thus allowing the talented offspring of unskilled workers to go to school. This compositional effect has a positive effect on the observed skill premium, possibly strong enough to counterweight the decrease in the skilled wage.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8286.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8286

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Keywords: credit market frictions; Latin America; skill premium; trade liberalization;

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  1. Wacziarg, Romain & Wallack, Jessica Seddon, 2004. "Trade liberalization and intersectoral labor movements," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 411-439, December.
  2. Ranjan, Priya, 2001. "Credit constraints and the phenomenon of child labor," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 81-102, February.
  3. Nancy L. Stokey, 1990. "Human Capital, Product Quality, and Growth," Discussion Papers 883, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  4. Orazio Attanasio & Pinelopi Goldberg & Nina Pavcnik, 2003. "Trade Reforms and Wage Inequiality in Colombia," NBER Working Papers 9830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ranjan, Priya, 2003. "Trade induced convergence through human capital accumulation in credit-constrained economies," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 139-162, October.
  6. Naércio Aquino Menezes Filho & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2007. "Labor Reallocation in Response to Trade Reform," CESifo Working Paper Series 1936, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. Chesnokova, Tatyana & Krishna, Kala, 2009. "Skill acquisition, credit constraints, and trade," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 227-238, March.
  8. Ranjan, Priya, 2001. "Dynamic evolution of income distribution and credit-constrained human capital investment in open economies," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 329-358, December.
  9. Kenneth Kletzer and Pranab Bardhan., 1986. "Credit Markets and Patterns of International Trade," Economics Working Papers 8612, University of California at Berkeley.
  10. Das, Satya P., 2006. "Trade, skill acquisition and distribution," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 118-141, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Bonfatti, Roberto & Ghatak, Maitreesh, 2013. "Trade and the allocation of talent with capital market imperfections," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 187-201.

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