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Trade Reform and Regional Dynamics: Evidence From 25 Years of Brazilian Matched Employer-Employee Data


  • Rafael Dix-Carneiro

    (Duke University)

  • Brian K. Kovak

    (Carnegie Mellon University)


We empirically study the dynamics of labor market adjustment following the Brazilian trade reform of the 1990s. We use variation in industry-specific tariff cuts interacted with initial regional industry mix to measure trade-induced local labor demand shocks, and then examine regional and individual labor market responses to those one-time shocks over two decades. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we do not find that the impact of local shocks is dissipated over time through wage-equalizing migration. Instead, we find steadily growing effects of local shocks on regional formal sector wages and employment for 20 years. This finding can be rationalized in a simple equilibrium model with two complementary factors of production, labor and industry-specific factors such as capital, that adjust slowly and imperfectly to shocks. Next, we document rich margins of adjustment induced by the trade reform at the regional and individual level. Workers initially employed in harder hit regions face continuously deteriorating formal labor market outcomes relative to workers employed in less affected regions, and this gap persists even 20 years after the beginning of trade liberalization. Negative local trade shocks induce workers to shift out of the formal tradable sector and into the formal nontradable sector. Non-employment strongly increases in harder-hit regions in the medium run, but in the longer run, non-employed workers eventually find re-employment in the informal sector. Working age population does not react to these local shocks, but formal sector net migration does, consistent with the relative decline of the formal sector and growth of the informal sector in adversely affected regions.

Suggested Citation

  • Rafael Dix-Carneiro & Brian K. Kovak, 2015. "Trade Reform and Regional Dynamics: Evidence From 25 Years of Brazilian Matched Employer-Employee Data," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 15-225, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:upj:weupjo:15-225

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gonzaga, Gustavo & Menezes Filho, Naercio & Terra, Cristina, 2006. "Trade liberalization and the evolution of skill earnings differentials in Brazil," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 345-367, March.
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    13. Rafael Dix‐Carneiro, 2014. "Trade Liberalization and Labor Market Dynamics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(3), pages 825-885, May.
    14. Ellison, Glenn & Glaeser, Edward L, 1997. "Geographic Concentration in U.S. Manufacturing Industries: A Dartboard Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(5), pages 889-927, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Luisito Bertinelli & Olivier Cardi & Romain Restout, 2015. "Technical Change Biased Toward the Traded Sector and Labor Market Frictions," Working Papers halshs-01252508, HAL.
    2. Pinelopi K. Goldberg & Nina Pavcnik, 2016. "The Effects of Trade Policy," NBER Working Papers 21957, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Costa, Francisco & Garred, Jason & Pessoa, João Paulo, 2016. "Winners and losers from a commodities-for-manufactures trade boom," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 50-69.
    4. Keller, Wolfgang & Utar, Hale, 2016. "International Trade and Job Polarization: Evidence at the Worker-Level," CEPR Discussion Papers 11311, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Sébastien Jean & Ariell Reshef, 2017. "Why Trade, and What Would Be the Consequences of Protectionism?," CEPII Policy Brief 2017-18, CEPII research center.
    6. Daron Acemoglu & David Autor & David Dorn & Gordon H. Hanson & Brendan Price, 2016. "Import Competition and the Great US Employment Sag of the 2000s," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(S1), pages 141-198.
    7. Guren, Adam & Hémous, David & Olsen, Morten, 2015. "Trade dynamics with sector-specific human capital," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 126-147.
    8. repec:eee:juecon:v:99:y:2017:i:c:p:1-14 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Yuan Zi, 2016. "Trade Liberalization and the Great Labor Reallocation," IHEID Working Papers 18-2016, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.
    10. Sergio Urzua & Felipe Saffie & Felipe Benguria, 2017. "Demand Shocks and Labor Market Dynamics: Firm Level Responses to a Commodity Boom," 2017 Meeting Papers 1443, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    11. David H. Autor & David Dorn & Gordon H. Hanson, 2016. "The China Shock: Learning from Labor-Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 8(1), pages 205-240, October.
    12. Isis Gaddis & Janneke Pieters, 2017. "The Gendered Labor Market Impacts of Trade Liberalization: Evidence from Brazil," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 52(2), pages 457-490.

    More about this item


    Local labor markets; Trade liberalization; Transitional dynamics;

    JEL classification:

    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • J46 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Informal Labor Market

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