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Trade and the skill-bias: it's not how much, but with whom you trade

  • Daniel Traca
  • Pushan Dutt

This paper explores the hypothesis that changes in trading patterns and partners of US industries have contributed to skill deepening through defensive, skill-biased innovation. It draws on Thoenig and Verdier's (2003) assertion that, since skill-intensive technologies are less likely to be imitated, increased exposure to international competition promotes skill-biased innovation, due to the rise in the intensity of imitation by foreign firms. Our main proposition is that the rate of growth of a trading partner is related to the intensity of imitation from firms operating in that country, implying that an increase in the rate of growth of an industry's representative trading partner should contribute to the rise in its skill-intensity. We find empirical evidence in support of this notion, showing that the rise in the average growth rate of the trading partners has contributed to about 20% of the skilldeepening within US industries. By contrast, we find evidence that measures of the volume of trade do not matter significantly for the rise in skill-intensity, in line with existing literature.

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Paper provided by ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles in its series Working Papers CEB with number 05-010.RS.

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Length: 2 p.
Date of creation: Sep 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published by: Centre Emile Bernheim
Handle: RePEc:sol:wpaper:05-010
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  1. Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 1996. "Globalization, Outsourcing, and Wage Inequality," NBER Working Papers 5424, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jonathan Haskel & Matthew J. Slaughter, 1999. "Trade, Technology and U.K. Wage Inequality," NBER Working Papers 6978, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Bernard, A.B. & Jensen, J.B., 1994. "Exporters, Skill Upgrading, and the Wage Gap," Working papers 94-30, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Josh Lerner, 2002. "150 Years of Patent Protection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 221-225, May.
  5. Haskel, Jonathan E. & Slaughter, Matthew J., 2002. "Does the sector bias of skill-biased technical change explain changing skill premia?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(10), pages 1757-1783, December.
  6. Paul Krugman, 1995. "Technology, Trade, and Factor Prices," NBER Working Papers 5355, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. William Easterly & Ross Levine, 2002. "It's Not Factor Accumulation: Stylized Facts and Growth Models," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 164, Central Bank of Chile.
  8. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Directed Technical Change," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 781-809.
  9. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed The Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213, November.
  10. Adrian Wood, 1995. "How Trade Hurt Unskilled Workers," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 57-80, Summer.
  11. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Griliches, Zvi, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-97, May.
  12. Robert E. Baldwin & Glen G. Cain, 2000. "Shifts In Relative U.S. Wages: The Role Of Trade, Technology, And Factor Endowments," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 580-595, November.
  13. Eric J. Bartelsman & Wayne Gray, 1996. "The NBER Manufacturing Productivity Database," NBER Technical Working Papers 0205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Howard J. Shatz, 1994. "Trade and Jobs in Manufacturing," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(1), pages 1-84.
  15. Wood, Adrian, 1998. "Globalisation and the Rise in Labour Market Inequalities," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(450), pages 1463-82, September.
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