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U.S. Multinationals and Competition from Low Wage Countries

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  • David A. Riker
  • S. Lael Brainard

Abstract

It is often argued that the globalization of production places workers in industrialized countries in competition with their counterparts in low wage countries. We examine a firm-level panel of foreign manufacturing affiliates owned by U.S. multinationals between 1983 and 1992 and find evidence to the contrary. Affiliate activities in developing countries appear to be complementary to rather than substituting for affiliate activities in industrialized countries. Workers do compete across affiliates, but the competition is between affiliates in countries with similar workforce skill levels. The results suggest that multinationals with affiliates in countries at different stages of development decompose production across borders into complementary stages that differ by skill intensity. The implied complementarity of traded intermediate inputs has important implications for the empirical debate over trade, employment, and wages.

Suggested Citation

  • David A. Riker & S. Lael Brainard, 1997. "U.S. Multinationals and Competition from Low Wage Countries," NBER Working Papers 5959, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5959
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert E. Lipsey & Irving Kravis, 1982. "Do Multinational Firms Adapt Factor Proportions to Relative Factor Prices?," NBER Chapters,in: Trade and Employment in Developing Countries, Volume 2: Factor Supply and Substitution, pages 215-256 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Barro, Robert J. & Lee, Jong-Wha, 1993. "International comparisons of educational attainment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 363-394, December.
    3. Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 1995. "Foreign Investment, Outsourcing and Relative Wages," NBER Working Papers 5121, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Markusen, James R, 1989. "Trade in Producer Services and in Other Specialized Intermediate Inputs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 85-95, March.
    5. Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Markusen, James R. & Rutherford, Thomas F., 1994. "Complementarity and increasing returns in intermediate inputs," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 101-119, October.
    6. Grossman, Gene M, 1982. "Import Competition from Developed and Developing Countries," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(2), pages 271-281, May.
    7. Ana L. Revenga, 1992. "Exporting Jobs?The Impact of Import Competition on Employment and Wages in U. S. Manufacturing," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 255-284.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business

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