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Trade, technology adoption and wage inequalities: theory and evidence

  • Maria Bas

    (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC), EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics)

This paper develops a trade model with heterogeneous firms introducing a fixed technology cost and different types of skilled labor. The main contribution is to explain the effects of trade integration on the extensive margin of technology adoption and its impact on wage inequalities. The originality of this paper is to combine skilled-biased technological change with international trade theory based on heterogeneous firms in a general equilibrium model. Moreover, it provides empirical evidence supporting the main assumption and predictions of the model using plant level panel data of Chilean's manufacturing sector for the period 1990-1999. The theoretical framework offers a possible explanation of the puzzle concerning the increase in the skill premium in developing countries. The H-O-S model predicts a reduction of inequalities after trade reforms in developing countries, while there is widespread empirical evidence of an increase in the skill premium in these countries. In our model the key mechanism is related to the effects of trade policy on the number of new firms upgrading technology and on the skill intensity. Trade liberalization increases export revenues raising the probability that the most productive exporters will upgrade technology. These firms will increase their relative demand of skilled labor, thereby enhancing the inequalities.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series PSE Working Papers with number halshs-00586858.

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Date of creation: Feb 2008
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Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00586858
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  1. Ekholm, Karolina & Midelfart, Karen Helene, 2005. "Relative wages and trade-induced changes in technology," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(6), pages 1637-1663, August.
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  7. 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.
  8. Sanchez-Paramo, Carolina & Schady, Norbert, 2003. "Off and running? Technology, trade and the rising demand for skilled workers in Latin America," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3015, The World Bank.
  9. Sofronis K. Clerides & Saul Lach & James R. Tybout, 1998. "Is Learning by Exporting Important? Micro-Dynamic Evidence from Colombia, Mexico, and Morocco," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 903-947.
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  11. Bernard, A., 1997. "Exceptional Exporter Performance: Cause, Effect, or Both?," Working papers 97-21, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  12. Mathias Thoenig & Thierry Verdier, 2003. "A Theory of Defensive Skill-Biased Innovation and Globalization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 709-728, June.
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  15. Andrew B. Bernard & Stephen Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Comparative Advantage and Heterogeneous Firms," CEP Discussion Papers dp0643, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  16. Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 1999. "The Impact of Outsourcing and High-Technology Capital on Wages: Estimates For the United States, 1979–1990," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 907-940.
  17. James Levinsohn & Amil Petrin, 2003. "Estimating Production Functions Using Inputs to Control for Unobservables," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(2), pages 317-341.
  18. Roberts, Mark J & Tybout, James R, 1997. "The Decision to Export in Colombia: An Empirical Model of Entry with Sunk Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 545-64, September.
  19. Yeaple, Stephen Ross, 2005. "A simple model of firm heterogeneity, international trade, and wages," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 1-20, January.
  20. Eric A. Verhoogen, 2008. "Trade, Quality Upgrading, and Wage Inequality in the Mexican Manufacturing Sector," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(2), pages 489-530.
  21. Choi, E. Kwan & Harrigan, James, 2003. "Handbook of International Trade," Staff General Research Papers 11375, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  22. Maurin, Eric & Thesmar, David & Thoenig, Mathias, 2002. "Globalization and the demand for skill: An Export Based Channel," CEPR Discussion Papers 3406, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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