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A Theory of Outsourcing and Wage Decline

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  • Thomas J. Holmes
  • Julia Thornton Snider

Abstract

We develop a theory of outsourcing in which there is market power in one factor market (labor) and no market power in a second factor market (capital). There are two intermediate goods: one labor-intensive and the other capital-intensive. We show there is always outsourcing in the market allocation when a friction limiting outsourcing is not too big. The key factor underlying the result is that labor demand is more elastic, the greater the labor share. Integrated plants pay higher wages than the specialist producers of labor-intensive intermediates. We derive conditions under which there are multiple equilibria that vary in the degree of outsourcing. Across these equilibria, wages are lower the greater the degree of outsourcing. Wages fall when outsourcing increases in response to a decline in the outsourcing friction.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas J. Holmes & Julia Thornton Snider, 2009. "A Theory of Outsourcing and Wage Decline," NBER Working Papers 14856, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14856
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kenneth S. Corts, 1998. "Third-Degree Price Discrimination in Oligopoly: All-Out Competition and Strategic Commitment," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 29(2), pages 306-323, Summer.
    2. Williamson, Oliver E, 1979. "Transaction-Cost Economics: The Governance of Contractural Relations," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 233-261, October.
    3. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2005. "Outsourcing in a Global Economy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 135-159.
    4. Gene M. Grossman & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2008. "Trading Tasks: A Simple Theory of Offshoring," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1978-1997, December.
    5. Posner, Richard A, 1975. "The Social Costs of Monopoly and Regulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 807-827, August.
    6. Virginia Doellgast & Ian Greer, 2007. "Vertical Disintegration and the Disorganization of German Industrial Relations-super-1," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 45(1), pages 55-76, March.
    7. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2004. "New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great Depression: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 779-816, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Freeman, 2010. "Globalization of scientific and engineering talent: international mobility of students, workers, and ideas and the world economy," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(5), pages 393-406.
    2. Richard B. Freeman, 2010. "What Does Global Expansion of Higher Education Mean for the United States?," NBER Chapters,in: American Universities in a Global Market, pages 373-404 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production

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