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Demand Side Considerations and the Trade and Wages Debate

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  • Lisandro Abrego
  • John Whalley

Abstract

Recent trade and wages literature focuses on whether trade or technology has been the major source of increases in wage inequality in OECD countries since the 1980s. In this literature, no attention has been paid to demand side considerations. Using a simple heterogeneous goods trade model of the Armington type, and UK data, we show how trade shocks affecting the price of unskilled-intensive goods can be absorbed on the demand side, with little or no impact on relative wage rates. No wage impact occurs if the elasticity of substitution in preferences between imports and import substitutes is one. As this elasticity increases, trade plays an ever larger role in explaining wage inequality changes, and as the elasticity goes below one the sign of the effect changes. We suggest that since many import demand elasticity estimates are in the neighbourhood of one, there is a prima facie case that demand side considerations further lower the significance of trade as an explanation of recent trends in OECD wage inequality -beyond that reported in recent literature.

Suggested Citation

  • Lisandro Abrego & John Whalley, 2000. "Demand Side Considerations and the Trade and Wages Debate," NBER Working Papers 7674, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7674
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    1. Wood, Adrian, 1997. "Openness and Wage Inequality in Developing Countries: The Latin American Challenge to East Asian Conventional Wisdom," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 11(1), pages 33-57, January.
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    5. Krugman, Paul R., 2000. "Technology, trade and factor prices," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 51-71, February.
    6. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1992. "On the Labor Market Effects of Immigration and Trade," NBER Chapters,in: Immigration and the Workforce: Economic Consequences for the United States and Source Areas, pages 213-244 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Haskel, Jonathan & Slaughter, Matthew J, 2001. "Trade, Technology and U.K. Wage Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(468), pages 163-187, January.
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    12. Khalid Sekkat & Mathias Dewatripont & André Sapir, 1999. "Labor market effects of trade with LDC's in Europe," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/7378, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
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    14. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213.
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    16. Marquez, Jaime, 1994. "The Econometrics of Elasticities or the Elasticity of Econometrics: An Empirical Analysis of the Behavior of U.S. Imports," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(3), pages 471-481, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lorenzo Rotunno & Adrian Wood, 2016. "Wage Inequality and Skill Supplies in a Globalised World," AMSE Working Papers 1634, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, Marseille, France.
    2. Lawrence Edwards & Robert Lawrence, 2010. "US Trade and Wages: The Misleading Implications of Conventional Trade Theory," Working Papers 180, Economic Research Southern Africa.
    3. Lorenzo Rotunno & Adrian Wood, 2015. "Wages and endowments in a globalised world," Economics Papers 2015-W11, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    4. repec:ilo:ilowps:365055 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • D58 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Computable and Other Applied General Equilibrium Models

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