Nowhere to Go: Geographic and Occupational Immobility and Free Trade

Source: U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee Chairman’s Staff, 12 October 2011

Fair trade holds the promise of economic gains for the United States and our trading partners alike, but these gains do not come without a cost. Older workers and those without a college education are more vulnerable to the job losses that result from free trade – and these are precisely the same groups that face the most difficulties getting back on their feet in the current economy. While young people and college-educated workers may have the freedom and resources to move across the country in search of better opportunities, older Americans and those with less education often lack this mobility. The poor state of the housing market further constrains mobility, especially for those struggling to pay off their existing mortgages. Moreover, jobs are hard to come by for individuals without a college degree, and opportunities are likely to remain scarce in the years ahead, since most of the jobs expected to be created are in sectors that require education beyond high school. These effects combine to extend and exacerbate the stress on families and communities negatively impacted by free trade.

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