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Have Falling Tariffs and Transportation Costs Raised U.S. Wage Inequality?

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  • Jonathan E. Haskel
  • Matthew J. Slaughter

Abstract

A number of studies have tried to gauge the effect of international trade on the rising U.S. skill premium by examining whether product prices in unskill-intensive sectors have fallen relative to prices in skill-intensive sectors. However, these studies do not estimate what share of domestic product-price changes is due to trade barriers. This paper attempts to address this issue by analyzing not the sector bias of price changes but rather the sector bias of price changes induced by changes in U.S. tariffs and transportation costs. We find that in both the 1970s and 1980s, level cuts in tariffs and transportation costs levels were concentrated in the unskill-intensive sectors. If pass-through of trade barriers to product prices is uniform across all sectors, then this suggests falls in tariffs and transportation costs were mandating a rise in the U.S. skill premium. But despite this suggestive evidence, we estimate that the price changes induced by tariffs or transportation costs mandated a rise in the skill premium that was mostly statistically insignificant. Thus, we do not find strong evidence that falling tariffs and transport costs, working through price changes, mandated rises in inequality.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7539.

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Date of creation: Feb 2000
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Publication status: published as Jonathan E. Haskel & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2003. "Have Falling Tariffs and Transportation Costs Raised US Wage Inequality?," Review of International Economics, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 11(4), pages 630-650, 09.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7539

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  1. James E. Anderson & J. Peter Neary, 1998. "The Mercantilist Index of Trade Policy," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 416, Boston College Department of Economics.
  2. E Berman & J Bound & Stephen Machin, 1997. "Implications of Skill-Biased Technological Change: International Evidence," CEP Discussion Papers dp0367, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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  7. Robert C. Feenstra, 1987. "Symmetric Pass-Through of Tariffs and Exchange Rates Under Imperfect Competition: An Empirical Test," NBER Working Papers 2453, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Pritchett, Lant, 1996. "Measuring outward orientation in LDCs: Can it be done?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 307-335, May.
  9. Steven J. Davis & John C. Haltiwanger & Scott Schuh, 1998. "Job Creation and Destruction," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262540932, December.
  10. Haskel, Jonathan & Slaughter, Matthew J, 2001. "Trade, Technology and U.K. Wage Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(468), pages 163-87, January.
  11. Irwin, Douglas A, 1998. "Change in U.S. Tariffs: The Role of Import Prices and Commercial Policies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 1015-26, September.
  12. Richard B. Freeman, 1995. "Are Your Wages Set in Beijing?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 15-32, Summer.
  13. Robert C. Feenstra, 1996. "U.S. Imports, 1972-1994: Data and Concordances," NBER Working Papers 5515, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  15. Hakura, D. & Deardorff, A.V., 1993. "Trade and Wages: What Are the Questions?," Working Papers 341, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
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