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“Re-examining the Effects of Trading with China on Local Labor Markets: A Supply Chain Perspective”

Summary:
From the paper by Zhi Wang, Shang-Jin Wei, Xinding Yu & Kunfu Zhu: The United States imports intermediate inputs from China, helping downstream US firms to expand employment. Using a cross-regional reduced-form specification but differing from the existing literature, this paper (a) incorporates a supply chain perspective, (b) uses intermediate input imports rather than total imports in computing the downstream exposure, and (c) uses exporter-specific information to allocate imported inputs across US sectors. We find robust evidence that the total impact of trading with China is a positive boost to local employment and real wages. The most important factor is employment stimulation outside the manufacturing sector through the downstream channel. This overturns the received wisdom from the

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From the paper by Zhi WangShang-Jin WeiXinding Yu & Kunfu Zhu:

The United States imports intermediate inputs from China, helping downstream US firms to expand employment. Using a cross-regional reduced-form specification but differing from the existing literature, this paper (a) incorporates a supply chain perspective, (b) uses intermediate input imports rather than total imports in computing the downstream exposure, and (c) uses exporter-specific information to allocate imported inputs across US sectors. We find robust evidence that the total impact of trading with China is a positive boost to local employment and real wages. The most important factor is employment stimulation outside the manufacturing sector through the downstream channel. This overturns the received wisdom from the reduced-form literature and provides statistical support for a key mechanism hypothesized in general equilibrium spatial models.

Ungated version here. This is a slightly older paper (2018). A paper with related findings by Feenstra and Sasahara (2018) here, while ungated working paper version is here.

This is a reminder that import competition has direct impacts, but international trade allows firms access to lower cost inputs, and benefiting from comparative advantage. Separate from the question of net benefits is whether costs imposed on those negatively impacted outweigh those who gain, either in dollar or “util” terms.

Menzie Chinn
He is Professor of Public Affairs and Economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

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