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Inequality and Unemployment in a Global Economy

  • Elhanan Helpman
  • Oleg Itskhoki
  • Stephen Redding

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14478.

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Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Publication status: published as Elhanan Helpman & Oleg Itskhoki & Stephen Redding, 2010. "Inequality and Unemployment in a Global Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(4), pages 1239-1283, 07.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14478
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