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A New Look at Offshoring and Inequality: Specialization Versus Competition

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  • Ekholm, Karolina
  • Ulltveit-Moe, Karen-Helene

Abstract

The received wisdom is that a rising skill premium accompanied by a simultaneous rise in skill intensity characterizes relative wages and the employment structure in US manufacturing. However, we present evidence to show that the recent developments in the U.S. do not conform to this pattern and that the evolution of relative wages over the last three decades has in fact been bell-shaped. We argue that this bell-shaped evolution of wage inequality can be linked to globalization and a rise in offshoring. To analyze the relationship between globalization, offshoring and relative wages, we develop a general equilibrium model of trade and offshoring. This reveals that globalization and offshoring have two opposing effects on relative wages: greater vertical specialization increases wage inequality, while greater international competition increases wage inequality. The result is a bell-shaped relationship between wage inequality and offshoring when globalization is driven by falling trade costs for goods. However, we also find that if the globalization process continues as a result of reduced costs of fragmentation, this fosters increased wage inequalities. Consistent with recent observations, our analysis suggests that the fears related to offshoring and inequality may prove unjustified in the short term although the long-term effects may be quite different.

Suggested Citation

  • Ekholm, Karolina & Ulltveit-Moe, Karen-Helene, 2007. "A New Look at Offshoring and Inequality: Specialization Versus Competition," CEPR Discussion Papers 6402, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6402
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Munshi, Farzana, 2008. "Globalization and Inter-occupational Inequality in a Panel of Countries: 1983-2003," Working Papers in Economics 302, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    2. Colin Davis & Alireza Naghavi, 2011. "Offshoring Production: A Simple Model Of Wages, Productivity, And Growth," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 49(2), pages 334-348, April.
    3. Thomas Kemeny & David Rigby, 2012. "Trading away what kind of jobs? Globalization, trade and tasks in the US economy," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 148(1), pages 1-16, April.
    4. Arne Bigsten & Dick Durevall & Farzana Munshi, 2012. "Offshoring and occupational wages: Some empirical evidence," The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(2), pages 253-269, January.
    5. Nikos Koutsiaras, 2010. "How to Spend it: Putting a Labour Market Modernization Fund in Place of the European Globalization Adjustment Fund," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48, pages 617-640, June.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    globalization; offshoring; trade; wage inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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