Trade vs. technology, in terms of their labor market effects

Here is the new paper by David Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon Hanson, “Untangling Trade and Technology: Evidence from Local Labor Markets”:

We analyze in a common framework the differential effects of trade and technology on employment patterns in U.S. local labor markets between 1990 and 2007. Labor markets whose initial industry composition exposes them to rising import competition from China have experienced significant employment reductions particularly in the manufacturing sector and among non-college-educated workers. These employment losses are not limited to manual production jobs but also affect clerical and managerial occupations. Labor markets that are susceptible to computerization due to specialization in routine task-intensive activities have neither experienced an overall decline in employment, nor a differential change in manufacturing employment. However, the occupational structure of employment of these labor markets has polarized within each sector, as employment shifted from routine clerical and production occupations to more highly skilled managerial or professional occupations, as well as to lower skilled manual and service occupations. While the effect of trade competition is growing over time due to accelerating import growth, the effect of technology seems to have shifted from automation of production activities in the manufacturing sector towards computerization of information-processing tasks in the service sector.


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