Trade and Inequality: From Theory to Estimation

43 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2012

See all articles by Elhanan Helpman

Elhanan Helpman

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Oleg Itskhoki

Princeton University - Department of Economics

Marc-Andreas Muendler

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Stephen J. Redding

Princeton University

Date Written: April 2012

Abstract

While neoclassical theory emphasizes the impact of trade on wage inequality between occupations and sectors, more recent theories of firm heterogeneity point to the impact of trade on wage dispersion within occupations and sectors. Using linked employer-employee data for Brazil, we show that much of overall wage inequality arises within sector-occupations and for workers with similar observable characteristics; this within component is driven by wage dispersion between firms; and wage dispersion between firms is related to firm employment size and trade participation. We then extend the heterogenous-firm model of trade and inequality from Helpman, Itskhoki, and Redding (2010) and estimate it with Brazilian data. We show that the estimated model provides a close approximation to the observed distribution of wages and employment. We use the estimated model to undertake counterfactuals, in which we find sizable effects of trade on wage inequality.

Suggested Citation

Helpman, Elhanan and Itskhoki, Oleg and Muendler, Marc-Andreas and Redding, Stephen J., Trade and Inequality: From Theory to Estimation (April 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w17991. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2039209

Elhanan Helpman (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-4690 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Oleg Itskhoki

Princeton University - Department of Economics ( email )

Fisher 306
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States
+1 (609) 258-5493 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~itskhoki

Marc-Andreas Muendler

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0508
United States
858-534-4799 (Phone)
858-534-7040 (Fax)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Stephen J. Redding

Princeton University ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~reddings/

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