Outsourcing Jobs? Multinationals and Us Employment

46 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2006 Last revised: 1 Aug 2010

See all articles by Ann E. Harrison

Ann E. Harrison

University of California, Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Margaret McMillan

Tufts University - Department of Economics; International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 2006

Abstract

Critics of globalization claim that US manufacturing firms are being driven to shift employment abroad by the prospects of cheaper labor. Others argue that the availability of low-wage labor has allowed US based firms to survive and even prosper. Yet evidence for either hypothesis, beyond anecdotes, is slim. Using firm-level data collected by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), we estimate the impact on US manufacturing employment of changes in foreign affiliate wages, controlling for changing demand conditions and technological change. We find that the evidence supports both perspectives on globalization. For firms most likely to perform the same tasks in foreign affiliates and at home ("horizontal" foreign investment), foreign and domestic employees appear to be substitutes. For these firms, lower wages in affiliate locations are associated with lower employment in the US. However, for firms which do significantly different tasks at home and abroad ("vertical" foreign investment), foreign and domestic employment are complements. For vertical foreign investment, lower wages abroad are associated with higher US manufacturing employment. These offsetting effects may be combined to show that offshoring is associated with a quantitatively small decline in manufacturing employment. Other factors, such as declining prices for consumer goods, import competition, and falling prices for investment goods (which substitute for labor) play a more important role.

Suggested Citation

Harrison, Ann E. and McMillan, Margaret, Outsourcing Jobs? Multinationals and Us Employment (July 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12372. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=918970

Ann E. Harrison (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

Giannini Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Margaret McMillan

Tufts University - Department of Economics ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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