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Skill Biased Heterogeneous Firms, Trade Liberalization, and the Skill Premium

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  • James Harrigan
  • Ariell Reshef

Abstract

We propose a theory that rising globalization and rising wage inequality are related because trade liberalization raises the demand facing highly competitive skill-intensive firms. In our model, only the lowest-cost firms participate in the global economy exactly along the lines of Melitz (2003). In addition to differing in their productivity, firms differ in their skill intensity. We model skill-biased technology as a correlation between skill intensity and technological acumen, and we estimate this correlation to be large using firm-level data from Chile in 1995. A fall in trade costs leads to both greater trade volumes and an increase in the relative demand for skill, as the lowest-cost/most-skilled firms expand to serve the export market while less skill-intensive non-exporters retrench in the face of increased import competition. This mechanism works regardless of factor endowment differences, so we provide an explanation for why globalization and wage inequality move together in both skill-abundant and skill-scarce countries. In our model countries are net exporters of the services of their abundant factor, but there are no Stolper- Samuelson effects because import competition affects all domestic firms equally.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17604.

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Date of creation: Nov 2011
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Publication status: published as “Skill biased heterogeneous firms, trade liberalization, and the skill premium”, 2014, forthcoming Canadian Journal of Economics. Joint with Ariell Reshef.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17604

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References

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  1. Mark J. Melitz, 2002. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," NBER Working Papers 8881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Baldwin, Richard & Harrigan, James, 2007. "Zeros, Quality and Space: Trade Theory and Trade Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 6368, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Acemoglu, Daron, 2002. "Directed Technical Change," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(4), pages 781-809, October.
  4. John Romalis, 2004. "Factor Proportions and the Structure of Commodity Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 67-97, March.
  5. Maurice Kugler & Eric Verhoogen, 2012. "Prices, Plant Size, and Product Quality," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(1), pages 307-339.
  6. Zhu, Susan Chun & Trefler, Daniel, 2005. "Trade and inequality in developing countries: a general equilibrium analysis," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 21-48, January.
  7. Verhoogen, Eric A., 2007. "Trade, Quality Upgrading and Wage Inequality in the Mexican Manufacturing Sector," CEPR Discussion Papers 6385, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Paula Bustos, 2011. "The Impact of Trade Liberalization on Skill Upgrading Evidence from Argentina," Working Papers 559, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  9. Bernard, Andrew B. & Jensen, J. Bradford, 1997. "Exporters, skill upgrading, and the wage gap," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 3-31, February.
  10. Gonzague Vannoorenberghe, 2011. "Trade between symmetric countries, heterogeneous firms, and the skill premium," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 44(1), pages 148-170, February.
  11. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The Skill Content Of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1279-1333, November.
  12. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
  13. Steven Stern, 1997. "Simulation-Based Estimation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(4), pages 2006-2039, December.
  14. Ariel Burstein & Jonathan Vogel, 2010. "Globalization, Technology, and the Skill Premium: A Quantitative Analysis," NBER Working Papers 16459, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Donald R. Davis & James Harrigan, 2007. "Good Jobs, Bad Jobs, and Trade Liberalization," NBER Working Papers 13139, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. repec:sae:ecolab:v:16:y:2006:i:2:p:1-2 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Chong Xiang, 2005. "New Goods and the Relative Demand for Skilled Labor," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 285-298, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Contessi, Silvio & Nicola, Francesca de & Li, Li, 2013. "International trade, female labor, and entrepreneurship in MENA countries," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 89-114.
  2. Crozet, Matthieu & Trionfetti, Federico, 2013. "Firm-level comparative advantage," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 321-328.
  3. Julian Emami Namini & Ricardo Lopez, 2012. "Factor Price Overshooting with Trade Liberalization: Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 52, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School.
  4. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen J. Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2012. "The Empirics of Firm Heterogeneity and International Trade," Working Papers 12-18, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  5. Etzel, Daniel & Hauptmann, Andreas & Schmerer, Hans-Jörg, 2013. "Dissecting the German export miracle: Plant-level evidence," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 387-403.
  6. Emami Namini, Julian & Facchini, Giovanni & López, Ricardo A., 2013. "Export growth and firm survival," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 120(3), pages 481-486.
  7. Ahsan, Reshad N. & Mitra, Devashish, 2014. "Trade liberalization and labor's slice of the pie: Evidence from Indian firms," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 1-16.
  8. Marc J. Melitz & Stephen J. Redding, 2012. "Heterogeneous Firms and Trade," CEP Discussion Papers dp1183, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.

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