Firm Productivity, Occupational Choice, and Inequality in a Global Economy (revised March 2015)
This study proposes a simple theory of trade with endogenous firm productivity, occupational choice, and income inequality. Individuals with different managerial talent choose to become self-employed entrepreneurs or workers. Entrepreneurs enhance firm productivity by investing in managerial capital. The model generates three income classes: low-income workers facing the prospect of unemployment; middle-income entrepreneurs managing domestic firms; and high-income entrepreneurs managing global firms. A reduction in per-unit trade costs raises productivity of global firms, reduces productivity of domestic firms, and worsens personal income distribution by generating labor-market polarization. A reduction in fixed exporting costs reduces productivity of every firm and has an ambiguous effect on personal income distribution. Trade-liberalization policies raise unemployment and improve welfare.
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