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International Trade and Labor-Demand Elasticities

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  • Matthew J. Slaughter

Abstract

In this paper I try to determine whether international trade has been increasing the own-price elasticity of demand for U.S. labor in recent years. The empirial work yields three main results. First, from 1960 through 1990 demand for U.S. production labor became more elastic in manufacturing overall and in five of eight industries within manufacturing. Second, during this time U.S. nonproduction-labor demand did not become more elastic in manufacturing overall or in any of the 8 industries within manufacturing. If anything, demand seems to be growing less elastic over time. Third, the hypothesis that trade contributed to increased elasticities has mixed support at best. For production labor many trade variables have the predicted effect for specifications with only industry contols, but these predicted effects disappear when time controls are included as well. For nonproduction labor things are somewhat better, but time continues to be a very strong predictor of elasticity patterns. Thus the time series of labor-demand elasticities are explained largely by a residual, time itself. This result parallels the common finding in studies of rising wage inequality. Just as there appears to be a large unexplained residual for changing factor prices over time, there also appears to be a large unexplained residual for changing factor demand elasticities over time.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew J. Slaughter, 1997. "International Trade and Labor-Demand Elasticities," NBER Working Papers 6262, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6262
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    1. repec:eee:labchp:v:3:y:1999:i:pb:p:2215-2288 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Kristin Forbes, 2001. "Skill classification does matter: estimating the relationship between trade flows and wage inequality," The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(2), pages 175-209.
    3. Jean, Sebastien, 2000. "The Effect of International Trade on Labor-Demand Elasticities: Intersectoral Matters," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 8(3), pages 504-516, August.
    4. Robert C. Feenstra, 1998. "Integration of Trade and Disintegration of Production in the Global Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 31-50, Fall.
    5. Marianne Bertrand, 2004. "From the Invisible Handshake to the Invisible Hand? How Import Competition Changes the Employment Relationship," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 723-766, October.
    6. Carlos A. Arango & Ängela Milena Rojas, 2003. "Demanda Laboral en el Sector Manufacturero Colombiano:1977-1999," BORRADORES DE ECONOMIA 002270, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA.
    7. Stuart Glosser & Lonnie Golden, 2005. "Is labour becoming more or less flexible? Changing dynamic behaviour and asymmetries of labour input in US manufacturing," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 535-557, July.
    8. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Maloney, William F., 2005. "Labor demand and trade reform in Latin America," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 423-446, July.
    9. Rodolfo Helg & Riccardo Faini & Anna M. Falzoni & Marzio Galeotti & Alessandro Turrini, 2001. "Importing Jobs And Exporting Firms? On The Wage And Employment Implications Of Italy’S Trade And Foreign Direct Investment Flows," International Trade 0103001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Carlos Arango & Angela Milena Rojas, 2003. "Demanda Laboral Y Reforma Comercial En El Sector Manufacturero Colombiano: 1977 - 1999," ENSAYOS SOBRE POLÍTICA ECONÓMICA, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA - ESPE, December.
    11. Yener Kandogan, 2003. "On Types of Trade,Adjustment of Labor and Welfare Gains During Asymmetric Liberalizations," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2003-568, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    12. Gerry Boyle & Pauline McCormack, 2002. "Trade and technological explanations for changes in sectoral labour demand in OECD economies," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(5), pages 617-635.
    13. Spector, David, 2004. "Competition and the capital-labor conflict," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 25-38, February.
    14. Devashish Mitra, 2001. "Trade Liberalization, Labor Markets and Imperfect Competition," Economics Study Area Working Papers 29, East-West Center, Economics Study Area.
    15. Piekkola, Hannu & Haaparanta, Pertti, 1999. "Liquidity Constraints Faced by Firm and Employment," Discussion Papers 695, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
    16. Ilham Haouas & Mahmoud Yagoubib, 2007. "The effect of international trade on labour-demand elasticities: empirical evidence from Tunisia," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(4), pages 277-286.
    17. repec:bdr:ensayo:v::y:2003:i:44:p:96-154 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Haouas, Ilham & Yagoubi, Mahmoud, 2004. "Trade Liberalization and Labor-Demand Elasticities: Empirical Evidence from Tunisia," IZA Discussion Papers 1084, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    19. ?ule ?zler, 2013. "Worker Composition and Export Decision: Evidence from Colombia," Review of Economics & Finance, Better Advances Press, Canada, vol. 3, pages 33-52, November.
    20. Krishna, Pravin & Mitra, Devashish & Chinoy, Sajjid, 2001. "Trade liberalization and labor demand elasticities: evidence from Turkey," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 391-409, December.
    21. Gerry Boyle; & Pauline McCormack, 1998. "Trade and Technological Explanations for Changes in Sectoral Labour Demand in OECD Economies," Economics, Finance and Accounting Department Working Paper Series n770598, Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland - Maynooth.
    22. Guglielmo Caporale & Mohammad Haq, 2002. "Manufacturing Wage Differentials and Employment in Some Scandinavian Countries, the U.S. and the U.K.: An Analysis of Variance Approach," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 289-304, December.
    23. Ilham Haouas & Mahmoud Yagoubi, 2004. "Trade liberalization and demand labor elasticities : evidence from Tunisia," Documents de travail 94, Groupe d'Economie du Développement de l'Université Montesquieu Bordeaux IV.

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    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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