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Openness and Inequality in Developing Countries: a New Look at the Evidence


  • Julien Gourdon

    (CERDI - Centre d'Études et de Recherches sur le Développement International - UdA - Université d'Auvergne - Clermont-Ferrand I - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)


Integration to world markets is expected to help developing countries to access prosperity. At the same time, increasing opportunities to trade are likely to affect income distribution and whether or not increasing openness to trade is accompanied by a reduction or an increase inequality is highly controversial. This paper brings new evidence on this issue in using a data set covering a large sample of developing countries and a model with improved controls for omitted variables and a new index of trade openness. Trade liberalization increases inequality in countries that relatively well-endowed in capital. Our model assumes that it might be fruitful to breakdown unskilled labor into non-educated and primary-educated as suggested by Wood (1994). The results show that trade liberalization increases inequality in highly educated abundant countries whereas it decreases inequality in primary educated abundant countries. However it increases inequality in non educated abundant countries, suggesting that this part of population does not benefit from trade openness since it is not included in export oriented sectors.

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  • Julien Gourdon, 2011. "Openness and Inequality in Developing Countries: a New Look at the Evidence," Working Papers halshs-00557117, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:halshs-00557117
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jorge Saba Arbache & Andy Dickerson & Francis Green, 2004. "Trade Liberalisation and Wages in Developing Countries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(493), pages 73-96, February.
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    4. Esquivel, Gerardo & Rodriguez-Lopez, Jose Antonio, 2003. "Technology, trade, and wage inequality in Mexico before and after NAFTA," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 543-565, December.
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    7. Sylvain Chabe-Ferret & Julien Gourdon & Mohamed Ali Marouani & Tancrède Voituriez, 2007. "Trade-Induced Changes in Economic Inequality: Assessment Issues and Policy Implications for Developing Countries," Working Papers DT/2007/11, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
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    10. Amelia Santos-Paulino & A. P. Thirlwall, 2004. "The impact of trade liberalisation on exports, imports and the balance of payments of developing countries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(493), pages 50-72, February.
    12. Goldberg, Pinelopi Koujianou & Pavcnik, Nina, 2005. "Trade, wages, and the political economy of trade protection: evidence from the Colombian trade reforms," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 75-105, May.
    13. Robertson, Raymond, 2004. "Relative prices and wage inequality: evidence from Mexico," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 387-409, December.
    14. Cragg, Michael Ian & Epelbaum, Mario, 1996. "Why has wage dispersion grown in Mexico? Is it the incidence of reforms or the growing demand for skills?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 99-116, October.
    15. Anne O. Krueger, 1983. "Trade and Employment in Less Developed Countries: The Questions," NBER Chapters,in: Trade and Employment in Developing Countries, Volume 3: Synthesis and Conclusions, pages 1-9 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    international trade; Income distribution; Poverty;

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