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Did Trade Liberalization Help Women? The Case of Mexico in the 1990s


  • Ernesto Aguayo-Tellez
  • Jim Airola
  • Chinhui Juhn


With the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, Mexico entered a bilateral free trade agreement which not only lowered its own tariffs on imports but also lowered tariffs on its exports to the U.S. We find that women's relative wage increased, particularly during the period of liberalization. Both between and within-industry shifts also favored female workers. With regards to between-industry shifts, tariff reductions expanded sectors which were initially female intensive. With regards to within-industry shifts, we find a positive association between reductions in export tariffs (U.S. tariffs on Mexican goods) and hiring of women in skilled blue-collar occupations. Finally, we find suggestive evidence that household bargaining power shifted in favor of women. Expenditures shifted from goods associated with male preference, such as men's clothing and tobacco and alcohol, to those associated with female preference such as women's clothing and education.

Suggested Citation

  • Ernesto Aguayo-Tellez & Jim Airola & Chinhui Juhn, 2010. "Did Trade Liberalization Help Women? The Case of Mexico in the 1990s," NBER Working Papers 16195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16195
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Winters, L. Alan, 2014. "Globalization, Infrastructure, and Inclusive Growth," ADBI Working Papers 464, Asian Development Bank Institute.
    2. Silvio Contessi & Francesca de Nicola & Li Li, 2014. "International trade, female labor and entrepreneurship in MENA countries," Chapters,in: The Economic and Political Aftermath of the Arab Spring, chapter 4, pages 106-140 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Do, Quy-Toan & Levchenko, Andrei A. & Raddatz, Claudio, 2016. "Comparative advantage, international trade, and fertility," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 48-66.
    4. Niklas Potrafke & Heinrich Ursprung, 2011. "Globalization and Gender Equality in Developing Countries," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2011-33, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    5. Juhn, Chinhui & Ujhelyi, Gergely & Villegas-Sanchez, Carolina, 2014. "Men, women, and machines: How trade impacts gender inequality," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 179-193.
    6. Do, Quy-Toan & Levchenko, Andrei A. & Raddatz, Claudio, 2011. "Engendering trade," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5777, The World Bank.
    7. Silvio Contessi & Francesca de Nicola, 2012. "What do we know about the relationship between access to finance and international trade?," Working Papers 2012-054, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    8. Pamela Bombarda & Sarra Ben Yahmed, 2017. "Gender, Informal Employment and Trade Liberalization in Mexico," THEMA Working Papers 2017-03, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    9. Justina A.V. Fischer, 2015. "Globalized Markets, Globalized Information, and Female Employment: Accounting for Regional Differences in 30 OECD Countries," AIEL Series in Labour Economics,in: Chiara Mussida & Francesco Pastore (ed.), Geographical Labor Market Imbalances. Recent Explanations and Cures, edition 1, chapter 13, pages Universit AIEL - Associazione Italiana Economisti del Lavoro.
    10. Potrafke, Niklas & Ursprung, Heinrich W., 2012. "Globalization and gender equality in the course of development," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 399-413.
    11. Gurleen Popli, 2008. "Gender wage discrimination in Mexico: A distributional approach," Working Papers 2008006, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics, revised Apr 2008.
    12. Binelli Chiara, 2015. "How the wage-education profile got more convex: evidence from Mexico," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 15(2), pages 509-560, July.
    13. L. Alan Winters & Antonio Martuscelli, 2014. "Trade Liberalization and Poverty: What Have We Learned in a Decade?," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 493-512, October.
    14. Sauré, Philip & Zoabi, Hosny, 2014. "International trade, the gender wage gap and female labor force participation," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 17-33.
    15. Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys & Robertson, Raymond, 2012. "The Promise and Peril of Post-MFA Apparel Production," World Bank - Economic Premise, The World Bank, issue 84, pages 1-4, May.
    16. Isis Gaddis & Janneke Pieters, 2017. "The Gendered Labor Market Impacts of Trade Liberalization: Evidence from Brazil," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 52(2), pages 457-490.
    17. Ghani,Syed Ejaz & Grover,Arti & Kerr,Sari & Kerr,William Robert, 2016. "Will market competition trump gender discrimination in India ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7814, The World Bank.
    18. Hazarika, Bhabesh & Goswami, Kishor, 2014. "Rural Non-Farm Micro-Entrepreneurship or Not: Gender Issue in Decision Making," EconStor Conference Papers 125611, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    19. Franck Viroleau, 2015. "The Evolution of Gender Wage Inequality in Senegal Following the Economic Partnership Agreements," EconomiX Working Papers 2015-10, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
    20. Pedro Orraca & Francisco Javier Cabrera & Gustavo Iriarte, 2016. "The gender wage gap and occupational segregation in the Mexican labour market," EconoQuantum, Revista de Economia y Negocios, Universidad de Guadalajara, Centro Universitario de Ciencias Economico Administrativas, Departamento de Metodos Cuantitativos y Maestria en Economia., vol. 13(1), pages 51-72, Enero-Jun.
    21. Anukriti, S & Kumler, Todd J., 2014. "Tariffs, Social Status, and Gender in India," IZA Discussion Papers 7969, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    22. Garduno-Rivera, Rafael & Baylis, Katherine R., 2012. "Effect of Tariff Liberalization on Mexico’s Income Distribution in the presence of Migration," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124740, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    23. Chahir Zaki, 2011. "On Trade Policies and Wage Disparity in Egypt: Evidence from Microeconomic Data," Working Papers 606, Economic Research Forum, revised 08 Jan 2011.
    24. Gaddis, Isis & Pieters, Janneke, 2012. "Trade Liberalization and Female Labor Force Participation: Evidence from Brazil," IZA Discussion Papers 6809, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    25. Purna Banerjee & C. Veeramani, 2015. "Trade liberalisation and women's employment intensity: Analysis of India's manufacturing industries," Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai Working Papers 2015-018, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations
    • O24 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Trade Policy; Factor Movement; Foreign Exchange Policy
    • O54 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Latin America; Caribbean

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