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Does European Unemployment Prop Up American Wages?

  • Donald R. Davis

We consider trade between a flexible wage America and a rigid real wage Europe. In a benchmark case, a move from autarky to free trade doubles the European unemployment rate, while it raises the American unskilled wage to the high European level. Entry of the unskilled South to world markets raises unemployment in Europe. But Europe's commitment to the high wage completely insulates America from the shock. Immigration to America raises American income, but lowers European income dollar-for-dollar, while European unemployment rises one-for-one. We consider a stylized game of the choice of factor market institutions. Mitterand's Europe chooses a high minimum wage and Reagan's America chooses a flexible wage for the unskilled. Paradoxically, unskilled workers are worse off in Europe. Trade equalizes wages, but Europeans bear all of the unemployment required to sustain the high wage.

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Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 1752.

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Date of creation: 1996
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Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:1752
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  1. Donald R. Davis & David E. Weinstein & Scott C. Bradford & Kazushige Shimpo, 1996. "The Heckscher-Ohlin-Vanek Model of Trade: Why Does It Fail? When Does It Work?," NBER Working Papers 5625, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David Blanchflower & L Katz & G Loveman, 1993. "A Comparison of Changes in the Structure of Wages in Four OECD Countries," CEP Discussion Papers dp0144, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  3. Paul Krugman, 1995. "Growing World Trade: Causes and Consequences," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(1, 25th A), pages 327-377.
  4. Edward E. Leamer, 1994. "Trade, Wages and Revolving Door Ideas," NBER Working Papers 4716, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. David Card, 1990. "The impact of the Mariel boatlift on the Miami labor market," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(2), pages 245-257, January.
  6. Mussa, Michael, 1979. "The two-sector model in terms of its dual : A geometric exposition," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 513-526, November.
  7. Richard B. Freeman, 1995. "Are Your Wages Set in Beijing?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 15-32, Summer.
  8. Brecher, Richard A., 1974. "Optimal commercial policy for a minimum-wage economy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 139-149, May.
  9. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Griliches, Zvi, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-97, May.
  10. Brecher, Richard A, 1974. "Minimum Wage Rates and the Pure Theory of International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 88(1), pages 98-116, February.
  11. Lawrence F. Katz & Gary W. Loveman & David G. Blanchflower, 1993. "A Comparison of Changes in the Structure of Wages," NBER Working Papers 4297, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1995. "Differences and Changes in Wage Structures," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free95-1.
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