Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure

61 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2016

See all articles by David H. Autor

David H. Autor

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

David Dorn

University of Zurich - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Gordon H. Hanson

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Kaveh Majlesi

Lund University; Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2016

Abstract

Has rising trade integration between the U.S. and China contributed to the polarization of U.S. politics? Analyzing outcomes from the 2002 and 2010 congressional elections, we detect an ideological realignment that is centered in trade-exposed local labor markets and that commences prior to the divisive 2016 U.S. presidential election. Exploiting the exogenous component of rising trade with China and classifying legislator ideologies by their congressional voting record, we find strong evidence that congressional districts exposed to larger increases in import competition disproportionately removed moderate representatives from office in the 2000s. Trade-exposed districts initially in Republican hands become substantially more likely to elect a conservative Republican, while trade-exposed districts initially in Democratic hands become more likely to elect either a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Polarization is also evident when breaking down districts by race: trade-exposed locations with a majority white population are disproportionately likely to replace moderate legislators with conservative Republicans, whereas locations with a majority non-white population tend to replace moderates with liberal Democrats. We further contrast the electoral impacts of trade exposure with shocks associated with generalized changes in labor demand and with the post-2006 U.S. housing market collapse.

Suggested Citation

Autor, David H. and Dorn, David and Hanson, Gordon H. and Majlesi, Kaveh, Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure (September 2016). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP11511. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2840708

David H. Autor (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
Room E52-371
Cambridge, MA 02142-1347
United States
617-258-7698 (Phone)
617-253-1330 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://web.mit.edu/dautor/www

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

David Dorn

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Z├╝rich
Switzerland

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Gordon H. Hanson

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Kaveh Majlesi

Lund University ( email )

Box 117
Lund, S221 00
Sweden

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
0
Abstract Views
466
PlumX Metrics