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Trade liberalization and the evolution of skill earnings differentials in Brazil

  • Gonzaga, Gustavo Maurício
  • Menezes Filho, Naércio Aquino
  • Terra, Maria Cristina T.

Skilled labor earnings differentials decreased during the trade liberalization implemented in Brazil from 1988 to 1995. This paper investigates the role of trade liberalization in explaining these relative earnings movements. We perform several independent empirical exercises that check the traditional trade transmission mechanism, using disaggregated data on tariffs, prices, earnings, employment and skill intensity. We find that: i) employment shifted from skilled to unskilled intensive sectors, and each sector increased its relative share of skilled labor; ii) relative prices fell in skill intensive sectors; iii) tariff changes across sectors were not related to skill intensities, but the pass-through from tariffs to prices was larger in skill intensive sectors; iv) the decline in skilled earnings differentials mandated by the price variation predicted by trade was even larger than the observed one. The results are compatible with trade liberalization accounting for the observed relative earnings changes in Brazil. They also highlight the importance of considering the effects of differentiated pass-through from tariffs to prices.

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Paper provided by FGV/EPGE Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finanças, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil) in its series Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) with number 585.

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Date of creation: 01 Apr 2005
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Handle: RePEc:fgv:epgewp:585
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  1. E Berman & J Bound & Stephen Machin, 1997. "Implications of Skill-Biased Technological Change: International Evidence," CEP Discussion Papers dp0367, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  2. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213.
  3. Robertson, Raymond, 2004. "Relative prices and wage inequality: evidence from Mexico," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 387-409, December.
  4. Gonzaga, Gustavo & Menezes Filho, Naercio & Terra, Cristina, 2006. "Trade liberalization and the evolution of skill earnings differentials in Brazil," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 345-367, March.
  5. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U. S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-397.
  6. Alan Krueger, 1997. "Labor Market Shifts and the Price Puzzle Revisited," Working Papers 754, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Robert E. Baldwin & Glen G. Cain, 1997. "Shifts in U.S. Relative Wages: The Role of Trade, Technology and Factor Endowments," NBER Working Papers 5934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Jere R. Behrman & Nancy Birdsall & Miguel Székely, 2003. "Economic Policy and Wage Differentials in Latin America," Working Papers 29, Center for Global Development.
  9. Daron Acemoglu, 2003. "Patterns of Skill Premia," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(2), pages 199-230.
  10. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
  11. Jonathan E. Haskel & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2000. "Have Falling Tariffs and Transportation Costs Raised U.S. Wage Inequality?," NBER Working Papers 7539, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Miguel Székely & Nancy Birdsall & Jere R. Behrman, 2000. "Economics Reform and Wage Differentials in Latin America," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 6476, Inter-American Development Bank.
  13. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1993. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing Industries: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 4255, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Thoenig, Mathias & Verdier, Thierry, 2002. "A Theory of Defensive Skill-based Innovation and Globalization," CEPR Discussion Papers 3416, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  16. Matthew J. Slaughter, 2000. "What Are the Results of Product-Price Studies and What Can We Learn from Their Differences?," NBER Chapters, in: The Impact of International Trade on Wages, pages 129-169 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Johnson, George & Stafford, Frank, 1999. "The labor market implications of international trade," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 34, pages 2215-2288 Elsevier.
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  19. Beyer, Harald & Rojas, Patricio & Vergara, Rodrigo, 1999. "Trade liberalization and wage inequality," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 103-123, June.
  20. Gordon H. Hanson & Ann Harrison, 1999. "Trade Liberalization and Wage Inequality in Mexico," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(2), pages 271-288, January.
  21. Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "Labor Market Shifts and the Price Puzzle Revisited," NBER Working Papers 5924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. John Romalis, 2004. "Factor Proportions and the Structure of Commodity Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 67-97, March.
  23. Rudiger Dornbusch & Stanley Fischer & Paul A. Samuelson, 1980. "Heckscher-Ohlin Trade Theory with a Continuum of Goods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 95(2), pages 203-224.
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