More Evidence Against Autor, Dorn, and Hanson

by Don Boudreaux on March 1, 2017

in Trade, Work

The Autor, Dorn, and Hanson ‘China shock’ thesis is lately taking something of a beating.  In addition to Jonathan Rothwell’s paper (mentioned at Cafe Hayek yesterday) is this new paper by Ildikó Magyari, a newly minted econ PhD from Columbia University.  (HT Tyler Cowen)  Here’s the abstract from Magyari’s paper:

What is the impact of Chinese imports on employment of US manufacturing firms? Previous papers have found a negative effect of Chinese imports on employment in US manufacturing establishments, industries, and regions. However, I show theoretically and empirically that the impact of offshoring on firms, which can be thought of as collections of establishments – differs from the impact on individual establishments – because offshoring reduces costs at the firm level. These cost reductions can result in firms expanding their total manufacturing employment in industries in which the US has a comparative advantage relative to China, even as specific establishments within the firm shrink. Using novel data on firms from the US Census Bureau, I show that the data support this view: US firms expanded manufacturing employment as reorganization toward less exposed industries in response to increased Chinese imports in US output and input markets allowed them to reduce the cost of production. More exposed firms expanded employment by 2 percent more per year as they hired more (i) production workers in manufacturing, whom they paid higher wages, and (ii) in services complementary to high-skilled and high-tech manufacturing, such as R&D, design, engineering, and headquarters services. In other words, although Chinese imports may have reduced employment within some establishments, these losses were more than offset by gains in employment within the same firms. Contrary to conventional wisdom, firms exposed to greater Chinese imports created more manufacturing and nonmanufacturing jobs than non-exposed firms.

Regardless, though, of whose empirical studies are correct, it is well to remember what, exactly, are the standard economic predictions about changes in trade patterns on employment.


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