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Trade Flows and Wage Premiums: Does Who or What Matter?

  • Mary E. Lovely
  • J. David Richardson

In this paper we investigate relationships between trade, wages, and the rewards to skill for U.S. workers during the period 1981 - 92. We measure U.S. trade flows with three groups of trading partners -- industrial countries, newly industrial countries, and primary producers -- and we estimate the correlation of these trade flows with several types of wage premiums, using conditioning methods that separate pure wage premiums from the return to education industry by industry. We find that greater U.S. trade with newly industrializing countries is associated with increased rewards to skill and reduced rewards to pure labor, consistent with heightened wage inequality and distributional conflict. The opposite is usually true of greater trade with traditional industrial countries. Our interpretation of these results rests on two models. One is a model of North-North intraindustry trade in differentiated, skill-intensive intermediate goods ( horizontal' exchange) and North-South intraindustry trade in intermediates for finished manufactures ( vertical' exchange). The second is a simple model of industry wage premiums that are rewards for loyalty, firm-specific knowledge, or (dis)amenities, in which we posit different premiums for skilled and less-skilled workers whose labor markets are segmented from one another.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6668.

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Date of creation: Jul 1998
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6668
Note: ITI
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  1. R. E. Baldwin & G. G. Cain, . "Shifts in U.S. Relative Wages: The Role of Trade, Technology, and Factor Endowments," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1132-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
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  3. Dani Rodrik, 1992. "The Rush to Free Trade in the Developing World: Why So Late? Why Now? Will it Last?," NBER Working Papers 3947, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Baltagi, Badi H., 1985. "Pooling cross-sections with unequal time-series lengths," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 18(2-3), pages 133-136.
  11. Topel, Robert H, 1994. "Regional Labor Markets and the Determinants of Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 17-22, May.
  12. Jose Campa & Linda S. Goldberg, 1997. "The evolving external orientation of manufacturing: a profile of four countries," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Jul, pages 53-81.
  13. Cragg, Michael Ian & Epelbaum, Mario, 1996. "Why has wage dispersion grown in Mexico? Is it the incidence of reforms or the growing demand for skills?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 99-116, October.
  14. Noel Gaston & Daniel Trefler, 1994. "Protection, trade, and wages: Evidence from U.S. manufacturing," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 47(4), pages 574-593, July.
  15. William T. Dickens & Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Interindustry Wage Differences and Industry Characteristics," NBER Working Papers 2014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Feenstra, Robert C & Hanson, Gordon H, 1996. "Globalization, Outsourcing, and Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 240-45, May.
  17. Krueger, Alan B & Summers, Lawrence H, 1988. "Efficiency Wages and the Inter-industry Wage Structure," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 259-93, March.
  18. Ethier, Wilfred J, 1982. "National and International Returns to Scale in the Modern Theory of International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 389-405, June.
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