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Trade Imbalances and Wage Inequality

Listed author(s):
  • Paolo Epifani

    (Bocconi University)

  • Rosario Crinò

    (CEMFI)

We argue that the large and growing North-South trade imbalances arisen over the last three decades may have exacerbated wage inequality worldwide. In particular, we show that in a standard Heckscher-Ohlin setup with a continuum of goods, a Southern trade surplus is associated with higher skill premia in both the North and the South. Conversely, a Northern trade surplus leads to lower skill premia worldwide. To test these predictions, we extend the methodology proposed by Chun Zhu and Trefler (2005) by computing how a change in trade surpluses/deficits impacts on each country's average skill-intensity of manufacturing exports. Using a large panel of more than 100 countries observed for more than 30 years, we find strong and robust evidence that an increase in the trade surplus by a skill-poor (skill-rich) country is associated with an increase (reduction) in the skill-intensity of exports. Our results also suggest that the impact of trade imbalances on the skill composition of exports is quantitatively larger than that of other likely determinants emphasized by the trade literature, such as trade liberalization, endowment changes, offshoring or Southern catch-up.

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File URL: https://economicdynamics.org/meetpapers/2013/paper_383.pdf
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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2013 Meeting Papers with number 383.

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Date of creation: 2013
Handle: RePEc:red:sed013:383
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/
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  1. Eric A. Verhoogen, 2008. "Trade, Quality Upgrading, and Wage Inequality in the Mexican Manufacturing Sector," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(2), pages 489-530.
  2. Rudiger Dornbusch & Stanley Fischer & Paul A. Samuelson, 1980. "Heckscher-Ohlin Trade Theory with a Continuum of Goods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 95(2), pages 203-224.
  3. Robert C. Feenstra & Gene M. Grossman & Douglas A. Irwin (ed.), 1996. "The Political Economy of Trade Policy: Papers in Honor of Jagdish Bhagwati," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061864, January.
  4. Aart Kraay & Jaume Ventura, 2000. "Current Accounts in Debtor and Creditor Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1137-1166.
  5. Bernard, Andrew B. & Jensen, J. Bradford, 1997. "Exporters, skill upgrading, and the wage gap," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 3-31, February.
  6. Elhanan Helpman & Oleg Itskhoki & Stephen Redding, 2010. "Inequality and Unemployment in a Global Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(4), pages 1239-1283, July.
  7. John Romalis, 2004. "Factor Proportions and the Structure of Commodity Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 67-97, March.
  8. Arnaud Costinot & Jonathan Vogel, 2010. "Matching and Inequality in the World Economy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(4), pages 747-786, August.
  9. Feenstra, Robert C. & Hanson, Gordon H., 1997. "Foreign direct investment and relative wages: Evidence from Mexico's maquiladoras," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-4), pages 371-393, May.
  10. Manasse, Paolo & Turrini, Alessandro, 2001. "Trade, wages, and 'superstars'," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 97-117, June.
  11. Monte, Ferdinando, 2011. "Skill bias, trade, and wage dispersion," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 202-218, March.
  12. Dornbusch, Rudiger & Fischer, Stanley & Samuelson, Paul A, 1977. "Comparative Advantage, Trade, and Payments in a Ricardian Model with a Continuum of Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 823-839, December.
  13. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
  14. Dinopoulos, Elias & Syropoulos, Constantinos & Xu, Bin & Yotov, Yoto V., 2011. "Intraindustry trade and the skill premium: Theory and evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 15-25, May.
  15. Barro, Robert J. & Lee, Jong Wha, 2013. "A new data set of educational attainment in the world, 1950–2010," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 184-198.
  16. Paolo Epifani & Gino Gancia, 2006. "Increasing Returns, Imperfect Competition, and Factor Prices," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 583-598, November.
  17. Paula Bustos, 2005. "The impact of trade liberalization on skill upgrading. Evidence from Argentina," Economics Working Papers 1189, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jul 2011.
  18. Zhu, Susan Chun & Trefler, Daniel, 2005. "Trade and inequality in developing countries: a general equilibrium analysis," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 21-48, January.
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