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The China Shock: Learning from Labor-Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade

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  • David H. Autor

    () (Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142
    The National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138)

  • David Dorn

    () (Department of Economics, University of Zurich, CH-8001 Zurich, Switzerland
    Centre for Economic and Policy Research, London EC1V 0DX, United Kingdom)

  • Gordon H. Hanson

    () (The National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
    School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093)

Abstract

China's emergence as a great economic power has induced an epochal shift in patterns of world trade. Simultaneously, it has challenged much of the received empirical wisdom about how labor markets adjust to trade shocks. Alongside the heralded consumer benefits of expanded trade are substantial adjustment costs and distributional consequences. These impacts are most visible in the local labor markets in which the industries exposed to foreign competition are concentrated. Adjustment in local labor markets is remarkably slow, with wages and labor-force participation rates remaining depressed and unemployment rates remaining elevated for at least a full decade after the China trade shock commences. Exposed workers experience greater job churning and reduced lifetime income. At the national level, employment has fallen in the US industries more exposed to import competition, as expected, but offsetting employment gains in other industries have yet to materialize. Better understanding when and where trade is costly, and how and why it may be beneficial, is a key item on the research agenda for trade and labor economists.

Suggested Citation

  • David H. Autor & David Dorn & Gordon H. Hanson, 2016. "The China Shock: Learning from Labor-Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 8(1), pages 205-240, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:anr:reveco:v:8:y:2016:p:205-240
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    Keywords

    globalization; labor-market adjustment; local labor markets; inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • L60 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - General
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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