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SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper
Cheap Imports and the Loss of U.S. Manufacturing Jobs
Abigail Cooke, Thomas Kemeny and David Rigby
November 2013
Paper No' SERCDP0148:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: F14; F15; F16; F6; J31

Tags: international trade; import competition; job loss; inequality; manufacturing

This paper examines the role of international trade, and specifically imports from low-wage countries, in determining patterns of job loss in U.S. manufacturing industries between 1992 and 2007. Motivated by intuitions from factor-proportions-inspired work on offshoring and heterogeneous firms in trade, we build industry-level measures of import competition. Combining worker data from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics dataset, detailed establishment information from the Census of Manufactures, and transaction-level trade data, we find that rising import competition from China and other developing economies increases the likelihood of job loss among manufacturing workers with less than a high school degree; it is not significantly related to job losses for workers with at least a college degree.