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Inequality and Unemployment in a Global Economy

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  • Elhanan Helpman
  • Oleg Itskhoki
  • Stephen Redding

Abstract

This paper develops a new framework for examining the distributional consequences of trade liberalization that is consistent with increasing inequality in every country, growth in residual wage inequality, rising unemployment, and reallocation within and between industries. While the opening of trade yields welfare gains, unemployment and inequality within sectors are higher in the trade equilibrium than in the closed economy. In the open economy changes in trade openness have nonmonotonic effects on unemployment and inequality within sectors. As aggregate unemployment and inequality have within- and between-sector components, changes in sector composition following the opening of trade complicate its impact on aggregate unemployment and inequality. However, when countries are nearly symmetric, the sectoral composition effects reinforce the within-sector effects, and both aggregate inequality and aggregate unemployment rise with trade liberalization.

Suggested Citation

  • Elhanan Helpman & Oleg Itskhoki & Stephen Redding, 2008. "Inequality and Unemployment in a Global Economy," NBER Working Papers 14478, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14478 Note: ITI
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    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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