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Learning to Love Globalization? Education and Individual Attitudes Toward International Trade

  • Jens Hainmueller

    (Harvard University)

  • Michael J. Hiscox

    (Harvard University)

Recent studies of public attitudes toward trade have converged upon one central finding: support for trade restrictions is highest among respondents with the lowest levels of education. This has been interpreted as strong support for the Stolper-Samuelson theorem, the classic economic treatment of the income effects of trade which predicts that trade openness benefits those owning factors of production with which their economy is relatively well endowed (those with skills in the advanced economies) while hurting others (low skilled workers). We re- examine the available survey data, showing that the impact of education on attitudes toward trade is almost identical among respondents in the active labor force and those who are not (even those who are retired). We also find that, while individuals with college-level educations are far more likely to favor trade openness than others, other types of education have no significant effects on attitudes, and some actually reduce the support for trade, even though they clearly contribute to skill acquisition. Combined, these results strongly suggest that the effects of education on individual trade preferences are not primarily a product of distributional concerns linked to job skills. We suggest that exposure to economic ideas and information among college-educated individuals plays a key role in shaping attitudes toward trade and globalization. This is not to say that distributional issues are not important in shaping attitudes toward trade – just that they are not clearly manifest in the simple, broad association between education levels and support for free trade.

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File URL: http://128.118.178.162/eps/it/papers/0505/0505011.pdf
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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series International Trade with number 0505011.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 19 May 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpit:0505011
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 35
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://128.118.178.162

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  1. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1992. "Protection For Sale," NBER Working Papers 4149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Mayda, Anna Maria & Rodrik, Dani, 2001. "Why are Some People (and Countries) More Protectionist than Others?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2960, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  4. K. H. O'Rourke & R. Sinnott, 2001. "The Determinants of Individual Trade Policy Preferences: International Survey Evidence," CEG Working Papers 20016, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
  5. Anna Maria Mayda, 2006. "Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 510-530, August.
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  8. Scheve, Kenneth F. & Slaughter, Matthew J., 2001. "What determines individual trade-policy preferences?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 267-292, August.
  9. Eugene Beaulieu, 2002. "Factor or Industry Cleavages in Trade Policy? An Empirical Analysis of the Stolper-Samuelson Theorem," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(2), pages 99-131, 07.
  10. Ruggie, John Gerard, 1998. "What Makes the World Hang Together? Neo-utilitarianism and the Social Constructivist Challenge," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(04), pages 855-885, September.
  11. Finnemore, Martha & Sikkink, Kathryn, 1998. "International Norm Dynamics and Political Change," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(04), pages 887-917, September.
  12. Edward J. Balistreri, 1997. "The Performance of the Heckscher-Ohlin-Vanek Model in Predicting Endogenous Policy Forces at the Individual Level," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 30(1), pages 1-17, February.
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  14. Krugman, Paul R, 1993. "What Do Undergrads Need to Know about Trade?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 23-26, May.
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