Trade, Jobs, And Wages: Are the public’s worries about globalization justified?

Source: L. Josh Bivens, EPI Issue Brief #244, May 6, 2008

A wide gulf exists today in American politics. On one shore are voters increasingly anxious about globalization and its effect on their jobs and communities. On the other are economists, policy makers, and pundits who maintain that trade is good for the economy, that the wider public is simply misguided about its benefits, and that politicians who sympathize with those concerned about globalization are pandering to special interests at the expense of the wider economy. This latter group relies heavily on the suggestion that “all economists believe” globalization is good for the vast majority of American workers.

This reliance is odd given that mainstream economics actually argues that there are plenty of reasons for concern about globalization’s effect on the majority of American workers. This primer highlights two issues in particular that should worry American workers about globalization: job losses stemming from growing trade deficits; and downward wage pressure for tens of millions of American workers. These problems are not unexpected consequences of expanded trade; quite the opposite, they are exactly what standard economic reasoning predicts.

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