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Trends in Tariff Reforms and Trends in the Structure of Wages

  • Sebastián Galiani

    (Department of Economics, Washington University in St Louis)

  • Guido Porto

    (Development Research Group, The World Bank)

This paper provides new evidence on the impacts of trade reforms on wages. We first introduce a model of trade that combines a non-competitive wage setting mechanism due to unions with a factor abundance hypothesis. The predictions of the model are then econometrically investigated using Argentine data. Instead of achieving identification by comparing industrial wages before and after one episode of trade liberalization, our strategy exploits the recent historical record of policy changes adopted by Argentina: from significant protection in the early 1970s, to the first episode of liberalization during the late 1970s, then back to a slowdown of reforms during the 1980s, and finally to the second episode of liberalization in the 1990s. These swings in trade policy represent broken trends in trade reforms that we can compare with observed trends in wages and wage inequality. We use unusual historical data sets of trends in tariffs, wages, and wage inequality to examine the structure of wages in Argentina and to explore how it is affected by tariff reforms. We find that i) trade liberalization, ceteris paribus, reduces wages; ii) industry tariffs reduce the industry skill premium; iii) conditional on the structure of tariffs at the industry level, the average tariff in the economy is positively associated with the aggregate skill premium. These findings suggest that the observed trends in wage inequality in Latin America can be reconciled with the Stolper-Samuelson predictions in a model with unions.

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Paper provided by CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata in its series CEDLAS, Working Papers with number 0124.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:dls:wpaper:0124
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  1. Kee, Hiau Looi & Nicita, Alessandro & Olarreaga, Marcelo, 2006. "Estimating Trade Restrictiveness Indices," CEPR Discussion Papers 5576, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Pavcnik, Nina, 2003. "What explains skill upgrading in less developed countries?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 311-328, August.
  3. Currie, Janet & Harrison, Ann E, 1997. "Sharing the Costs: The Impact of Trade Reform on Capital and Labor in Morocco," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages S44-71, July.
  4. Pabo Sanguinetti & Sebastian Galiani, 2003. "The impact of trade liberalizationon wage inequality:Evidence from Argentina," Department of Economics Working Papers 011, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.
  5. Robertson, Raymond, 2004. "Relative prices and wage inequality: evidence from Mexico," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 387-409, December.
  6. Attanasio, Orazio & Goldberg, Pinelopi K. & Pavcnik, Nina, 2004. "Trade reforms and wage inequality in Colombia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 331-366, August.
  7. Gibbons, Robert & Katz, Lawrence F, 1992. "Does Unmeasured Ability Explain Inter-industry Wage Differentials?," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(3), pages 515-35, July.
  8. David Card & Thomas Lemieux & W. Craig Riddell, 2003. "Unionization and Wage Inequality: A Comparative Study of the U.S, the U.K., and Canada," NBER Working Papers 9473, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Noel Gaston & Daniel Trefler, 1994. "Protection, trade, and wages: Evidence from U.S. manufacturing," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 47(4), pages 574-593, July.
  10. Gaston, Noel & Trefler, Daniel, 1995. "Union wage sensitivity to trade and protection: Theory and evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1-2), pages 1-25, August.
  11. Paula Bustos, 2010. "Trade Liberalization, Technology and Skill Upgrading. Evidence from Argentina," 2010 Meeting Papers 937, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  12. Manoj Atolia, 2002. "Trade Liberalization and Rising Wage Inequality in Latin America: Reconciliation with HOS Theory," Working Papers wp2002_03_01, Department of Economics, Florida State University, revised Feb 2006.
  13. Thorsten Vogel, 2007. "Union Wage Compression in a Right-to-Manage Model," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2007-009, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  14. Ann Harrison & Gordon Hanson, 1999. "Who Gains from Trade Reform? Some Remaining Puzzles," NBER Working Papers 6915, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. William T. Dickens & Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Interindustry Wage Differences and Industry Characteristics," NBER Working Papers 2014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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