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Outsourcing Jobs? Multinationals and US Employment

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  • Ann E. Harrison
  • Margaret S. McMillan

Abstract

Critics of globalization claim that US manufacturing firms are being driven to shift employment abroad by the prospects of cheaper labor. Others argue that the availability of low-wage labor has allowed US based firms to survive and even prosper. Yet evidence for either hypothesis, beyond anecdotes, is slim. Using firm-level data collected by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), we estimate the impact on US manufacturing employment of changes in foreign affiliate wages, controlling for changing demand conditions and technological change. We find that the evidence supports both perspectives on globalization. For firms most likely to perform the same tasks in foreign affiliates and at home ("horizontal" foreign investment), foreign and domestic employees appear to be substitutes. For these firms, lower wages in affiliate locations are associated with lower employment in the US. However, for firms which do significantly different tasks at home and abroad ("vertical" foreign investment), foreign and domestic employment are complements. For vertical foreign investment, lower wages abroad are associated with higher US manufacturing employment. These offsetting effects may be combined to show that offshoring is associated with a quantitatively small decline in manufacturing employment. Other factors, such as declining prices for consumer goods, import competition, and falling prices for investment goods (which substitute for labor) play a more important role.

Suggested Citation

  • Ann E. Harrison & Margaret S. McMillan, 2006. "Outsourcing Jobs? Multinationals and US Employment," NBER Working Papers 12372, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12372
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Marc-Andreas Muendler & Sascha O. Becker, 2010. "Margins of Multinational Labor Substitution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 1999-2030, December.
    2. Becker, Sascha O. & Ekholm, Karolina & Muendler, Marc-Andreas, 2013. "Offshoring and the onshore composition of tasks and skills," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 91-106.
    3. Adolfo Barajas & Ralph Chami & Dalia Hakura & Peter Montiel, 2011. "Workers’ Remittances and the Equilibrium Real Exchange Rate: Theory and Evidence," ECONOMIA JOURNAL, THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION - LACEA, vol. 0(Spring 20), pages 45-99, January.
    4. Ronald B. Davies & Rodolphe Desbordes, 2012. "Greenfield FDI and skill upgrading," Working Papers 201209, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    5. Rosario Crinò, 2007. "Offshoring, Multinationals and Labor Market: A Review of the Empirical Literature," KITeS Working Papers 196, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Jan 2007.
    6. Marilyn Ibarra-Caton, 2012. "Foreign Direct Investment Relationship and Plant Exit: Evidence from the United States," BEA Working Papers 0079, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
    7. Olivier Godart & Holger Görg & David Greenaway, 2013. "Domestic multinationals, foreign affiliates, and labour demand elasticities," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 149(4), pages 611-630, December.
    8. Blanas, Sotiris, 2012. "Intra-firm trade and employment in US manufacturing," Kiel Advanced Studies Working Papers 458, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    9. Peter J. Montiel & Luis Servén, 2008. "Real Exchange Rates, Saving and Growth: Is there a Link?," Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-18, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    10. Muendler, Marc A & Becker, Sascha O., 2006. "The Effect of FDI on Job Separation," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt28h3p82z, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
    11. Debaere, Peter & Lee, Hongshik & Lee, Joonhyung, 2010. "It matters where you go: Outward foreign direct investment and multinational employment growth at home," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 301-309, March.
    12. Runjuan Liu & Daniel Trefler, 2008. "Much Ado About Nothing: American Jobs and the Rise of Service Outsourcing to China and India," NBER Working Papers 14061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Sethupathy, Guru, 2013. "Offshoring, wages, and employment: Theory and evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 73-97.
    14. Yamashita, Nobuaki & Fukao, Kyoji, 2010. "Expansion abroad and jobs at home: Evidence from Japanese multinational enterprises," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 88-97, March.
    15. Harrison, Ann E. & McMillan, Margaret S., 2006. "Dispelling Some Myths About Offshoring," MPRA Paper 15615, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Ling Feng & Weijun Hu & Zhiyuan Li, 2013. "The Effects of Globalisation on the US Labour Mark'et: Service Sectors Considered," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(12), pages 1542-1565, December.
    17. Mark A. Wynne & Erasmus K. Kersting, 2008. "The globalization of U.S. business investment," Staff Papers, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Feb.
    18. Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation (EFI), Berlin (ed.), 2012. "Research, innovation and technological performance in Germany - EFI Report 2012," Research, Innovation and Technological Performance in Germany: Report, Expertenkommission Forschung und Innovation (EFI) - Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation, Berlin, volume 127, number 2012e, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General

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