Discussion Paper Details

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Title: The China Shock: Learning from Labor Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade

Author(s): David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson

Publication Date: January 2016

Keyword(s): China, International Trade and Labor Markets

Programme Area(s): International Trade and Regional Economics and Labour Economics

Abstract: Abstract China’s emergence as a great economic power has induced an epochal shift in patterns of world trade. Simultaneously, it has challenged much of the received empirical wisdom about how labor markets adjust to trade shocks. Alongside the heralded consumer benefits of expanded trade are substantial adjustment costs and distributional consequences. These impacts are most visible in the local labor markets in which the industries exposed to foreign competition are concentrated. Adjustment in local labor markets is remarkably slow, with wages and labor-force participation rates remaining depressed and unemployment rates remaining elevated for at least a full decade after the China trade shock commences. Exposed workers experience greater job churning and reduced lifetime income. At the national level, employment has fallen in U.S. industries more exposed to import competition, as expected, but offsetting employment gains in other industries have yet to materialize. Better understanding when and where trade is costly, and how and why it may be beneficial, are key items on the research agenda for trade and labor economists.

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Bibliographic Reference

Autor, D, Dorn, D and Hanson, G. 2016. 'The China Shock: Learning from Labor Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.