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The China Shock: Learning from Labor Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade

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

Abstract

China’s emergence as a great economic power has induced an epochal shift in patterns of world trade. Simultaneously, it has challenged much of the received empirical wisdom about how labor markets adjust to trade shocks. Alongside the heralded consumer benefits of expanded trade are substantial adjustment costs and distributional consequences. These impacts are most visible in the local labor markets in which the industries exposed to foreign competition are concentrated. Adjustment in local labor markets is remarkably slow, with wages and labor-force participation rates remaining depressed and unemployment rates remaining elevated for at least a full decade after the China trade shock commences. Exposed workers experience greater job churning and reduced lifetime income. At the national level, employment has fallen in U.S. industries more exposed to import competition, as expected, but offsetting employment gains in other industries have yet to materialize. Better understanding when and where trade is costly, and how and why it may be beneficial, are key items on the research agenda for trade and labor economists.

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  • David H. Autor & David Dorn & Gordon H. Hanson, 2016. "The China Shock: Learning from Labor Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade," NBER Working Papers 21906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21906
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    JEL classification:

    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • 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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