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Regional Income Inequality and International Trade

Author

Listed:
  • Julie Silva
  • Robin Leichenko

Abstract

International trade is frequently cited as a cause of rising income inequality between individuals and across countries. Less attention has been paid to the effects of trade on inequality across regions within countries. Trade may enhance regional inequalities due to differences in regional trade involvement and in the prices of export and import-competing goods produced in different regions. This study investigates the effects of trade on income inequality across regions in the United States. Using both structural and price-based measures of regional trade involvement, we evaluate the effects of trade on inequality within and across states, the metro and nonmetro portions of the states, and the major Census regions. Across all states and across metro and nonmetro areas, we find that trade affects inequality primarily via import and export prices. In contrast to our expectations, however, a weaker dollar —more expensive imports and cheaper exports — is associated with a worsening of a state’s position relative to other states, and greater inequality within a state. Across the Census regions, both our price and measures had significant effects, but the direction of these effects varied by region. Whereas most regions benefited from cheaper imports, states located in regions that are traditionally home to low-wage sectors, including the Southeast and South Central regions, were made relatively worse off by lower import prices and by greater orientation toward import-competing goods. Our findings reinforce notions about the uneven impacts of globalization and suggest that policy measures are needed to ensure that both the benefits and costs of international trade involvement are shared across regions.

Suggested Citation

  • Julie Silva & Robin Leichenko, 2003. "Regional Income Inequality and International Trade," Working Papers 03-15, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:03-15
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    File URL: https://www2.census.gov/ces/wp/2003/CES-WP-03-15.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2003
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Sachs, Jeffrey D & Shatz, Howard J, 1996. "U.S. Trade with Developing Countries and Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 234-239, May.
    2. Ngarambe, Octavian & Goetz, Stephan J. & Debertin, David L., 1998. "Regional Economic Growth And Income Distribution: County-Level Evidence From The U.S. South," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 30(2), pages 1-13, December.
    3. Partridge, Mark D. & Rickman, Dan S. & Levernier, William, 1996. "Trends in U.S. income inequality: Evidence from a panel of states," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 17-37.
    4. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Howard J. Shatz, 1994. "Trade and Jobs in Manufacturing," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(1), pages 1-84.
    5. Topel, Robert H, 1994. "Regional Labor Markets and the Determinants of Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 17-22, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Sébastien Breau & David L. Rigby, 2010. "International trade and wage inequality in Canada," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(1), pages 55-86, January.
    2. Robin Leichenko & Julie Silva, 2004. "International Trade, Employment and Earnings: Evidence from US Rural Counties," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(4), pages 355-374.
    3. Andres Rodriguez-Pose & Nicholas Gill, 2004. "How does trade affect regional inequalities?," ERSA conference papers ersa04p478, European Regional Science Association.
    4. Faguet, Jean-Paul & Shami, Mahvish, 2008. "Fiscal policy and spatial inequality in Latin America and beyond," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 27162, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Rigby, D L & Breau, Sebastien, 2007. "Impacts of Trade on Wage Quality in Los Angeles: Analysis Using Matched Employer-Employee Data," Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series qt0fh5z1hf, Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
    6. Bukhari, Mahnoor & Munir, Kashif, 2016. "Impact of Globalization on Income Inequality in Selected Asian Countries," MPRA Paper 74248, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. David Rigby & Sebastien Breau, 2006. "Impacts of Trade on Wage Inequality in Los Angeles: Analysis Using Matched Employer-Employee Data," Working Papers 06-12, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    8. Paliu-Popa, Lucia & Babucea, Ana-Gabriela, 2013. "Evolution of national - international trade in the period before the economic and financial crisis for selected economies," MPRA Paper 56106, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Nuno Crespo & Maria Paula Fontoura, 2008. "Regional Integration and International Economic Geography in the Portuguese Case - an update," Working Papers Department of Economics 2008/51, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Universidade de Lisboa.

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