Skill Biased Heterogeneous Firms, Trade Liberalization, and the Skill Premium

51 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2011

See all articles by James Harrigan

James Harrigan

University of Virginia - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Ariell Reshef

Paris School of Economics (PSE); CNRS; Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne - CES/CNRS; Centre d'Etudes Prospectives et d'Info. Internationales (CEPII)

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Date Written: November 2011

Abstract

We propose a theory that rising globalization and rising wage inequality are related because trade liberalization raises the demand facing highly competitive skill-intensive firms. In our model, only the lowest-cost firms participate in the global economy exactly along the lines of Melitz (2003). In addition to differing in their productivity, firms differ in their skill intensity. We model skill-biased technology as a correlation between skill intensity and technological acumen, and we estimate this correlation to be large using firm-level data from Chile in 1995. A fall in trade costs leads to both greater trade volumes and an increase in the relative demand for skill, as the lowest-cost/most-skilled firms expand to serve the export market while less skill-intensive non-exporters retrench in the face of increased import competition. This mechanism works regardless of factor endowment differences, so we provide an explanation for why globalization and wage inequality move together in both skill-abundant and skill-scarce countries. In our model countries are net exporters of the services of their abundant factor, but there are no Stolper- Samuelson effects because import competition affects all domestic firms equally.

Suggested Citation

Harrigan, James and Reshef, Ariell, Skill Biased Heterogeneous Firms, Trade Liberalization, and the Skill Premium (November 2011). NBER Working Paper No. w17604. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1962496

James Harrigan

University of Virginia - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 400182
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4182
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Ariell Reshef

Paris School of Economics (PSE) ( email )

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Paris, 75014 75014
France

CNRS ( email )

France

Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne - CES/CNRS ( email )

106 bv de l'Hôpital
Paris, 75013
France

Centre d'Etudes Prospectives et d'Info. Internationales (CEPII) ( email )

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Paris Cedex 15, F-75015
France

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