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Import Price Pressure on Firm Productivity and Employment: The Case of U.S. Textiles


  • Patrick Conway


Theoretical research has predicted three different effects of increased import competition on plant-level behavior: reduced domestic production and sales, improving average efficiency of plants, and increased exit of marginal firms. In empirical work, though, such effects are difficult to separate from the impact of exogenous technological progress (or regress). I use detailed plant-level information available in the US Census of Manufacturers and the Annual Survey of Manufacturers for the period 1983-2000 to decompose these effects. I derive the relative contribution of technology and import competition to the increase in productivity and the decline in employment in textiles production in the US in recent years. I then simulate the impact of removal of quota protection on the scale of operation of the average plant and the incentive to plant closure. The methodology employs a number of important innovations in examining the impact of falling import prices on the domestic production of an import-competing good. First, import competition is modeled directly through its impact on the relative prices of monopolistically competitive goods along the lines suggested by Melitz (2000). Second, the effect of technology is incorporated through structural estimation of plant-level production functions in four factors (capital, labor, energy and materials). Solutions to econometric difficulties related to missing capital data and unobserved productivity are incorporated into the estimation technique. The model is estimated for plants with primary product in SIC 2211 (broadwoven cotton cloth). Results validate modeling demand as for differentiated products. Technological coefficients are sensible, with exogenous technological progress playing a large role. In the simulations run, the effects of foreign price competition are orders of magnitude higher than those of technological progress for the period after quotas on imports are removed. The large-scale reduction in employment and output in the US is shown to be a combination of reduced employment and output at plants in continuous operation and of plant closures that exceed new entries.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Conway, 2006. "Import Price Pressure on Firm Productivity and Employment: The Case of U.S. Textiles," Working Papers 06-09, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:06-09

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