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Goods market responses to trade shocks and trade and wages decompositions

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  • Lisandro Abrego
  • John Whalley

Abstract

Trade and wages literature asks whether trade or technology has been the major factor behind increases in wage inequality in OECD countries since the 1980s. In this literature, little attention has been paid to how goods market responses to trade shocks affect conclusions. Using an Armington heterogeneous goods trade model we capture demand side effects, and show how trade shocks affecting the price of unskilled-intensive importable goods can be absorbed on the demand side of goods markets, with little or no impact on relative wage rates. No wage impact occurs if the elasticity of substitution in preferences between imports and import substitutes is one. As this elasticity increases, trade plays an ever larger role in explaining wage inequality changes, and as the elasticity goes below one the sign of the effect changes. We present some results of general equilibrium decompositions of total wage change into trade and technology components using UK data. We suggest that since many import demand elasticity estimates are in the neighbourhood of one, there is a prima facie case that goods market considerations further lower the significance of trade as an explanation of recent trends in OECD wage inequality beyond that claimed in the literature.

Suggested Citation

  • Lisandro Abrego & John Whalley, 2003. "Goods market responses to trade shocks and trade and wages decompositions," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 36(3), pages 747-757, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:36:y:2003:i:3:p:747-757
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Harris, Richard G. & Robertson, Peter E., 2013. "Trade, wages and skill accumulation in the emerging giants," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2), pages 407-421.
    2. Riezman, Raymond & Whalley, John & Zhang, Shunming, 2011. "Distance measures between free trade and autarky for the world economy," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 2000-2012, July.
    3. Niven Winchester, 2006. "Searching for the Smoking Gun: Did Trade Hurt Unskilled Workers?," Working Papers 0605, University of Otago, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2006.
    4. Jean, Sébastien & Mulder, Nanno & Ramos, María Priscila, 2014. "A general equilibrium, ex-post evaluation of the EU–Chile Free Trade Agreement," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 33-45.
    5. Rossana Patron & Marcel Vaillant, 2012. "Can Education Policy Address The Wage Gap? A Note On Public Skill Formation In Developing Countries," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(3), pages 369-378, April.
    6. Edward, T. Huw & Lücke, Matthias, 2011. "Decompositions of wage inequality and growth in an advanced economy open to trade," Kiel Working Papers 1749, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    7. Niven Winchester, 2006. "Trade and Rising Wage Inequality: What can we learn from a Decade of Computable General Equilibrium Analysis?," Working Papers 0606, University of Otago, Department of Economics, revised Oct 2006.

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