Trends in Tariff Reforms and Trends in the Structure of Wages

43 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2008

See all articles by Guido G. Porto

Guido G. Porto

World Bank; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Sebastian Galiani

University of Maryland - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2008


This paper provides new evidence on the impacts of trade reforms on wages. Instead of achieving identification by comparing industrial wages before and after one episode of trade liberalization, our strategy exploits the recent historical record of policy changes adopted by Argentina: from significant protection in the early 1970s, to the first episode of liberalization during the late 1970s, back to a slowdown of reforms during the 1980s, to the second episode of liberalization in the 1990s. These swings in trade policy comprise broken trends in trade reforms that we can compare with observed trends in wages and wage inequality. We use unusual historical data sets of trends in tariffs, wages, and wage inequality to examine the structure of wages in Argentina and to explore how it is affected by tariff reforms. We find that i) trade liberalization, ceteris paribus, reduces wages; ii) industry tariffs reduce the industry skill premium; iii) conditional on the structure of tariffs at the industry level, the average tariff in the economy is positively associated with the average skill premium. To explain these results, we present a model that combines a non-competitive wage setting mechanism due to unions with a factor abundance hypothesis. Overall, our work suggests that the observed trends in wage inequality in Latin America can be consistent with the Stolper-Samuelson predictions in a model with unions.

Keywords: Trade liberalization, Stolper-Samuelson, Wage inequality, non-competitive wages and unions

JEL Classification: F14 F16

Suggested Citation

Porto, Guido and Galiani, Sebastian, Trends in Tariff Reforms and Trends in the Structure of Wages (January 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Guido Porto (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States


National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Sebastian Galiani

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States

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