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The China Syndrome: Local Labor Market Effects of Import Competition in the United States

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  • David H. Autor
  • David Dorn
  • Gordon H. Hanson

Abstract

We analyze the effect of rising Chinese import competition between 1990 and 2007 on local U.S. labor markets, exploiting cross-market variation in import exposure stemming from initial differences in industry specialization while instrumenting for imports using changes in Chinese imports by industry to other high-income countries. Rising exposure increases unemployment, lowers labor force participation, and reduces wages in local labor markets. Conservatively, it explains one-quarter of the contemporaneous aggregate decline in U.S. manufacturing employment. Transfer benefits payments for unemployment, disability, retirement, and healthcare also rise sharply in exposed labor markets.

Suggested Citation

  • David H. Autor & David Dorn & Gordon H. Hanson, 2012. "The China Syndrome: Local Labor Market Effects of Import Competition in the United States," NBER Working Papers 18054, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18054
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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