NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

A Theory of Outsourcing and Wage Decline

Thomas J. Holmes, Julia Thornton Snider

NBER Working Paper No. 14856
Issued in April 2009
NBER Program(s):   PR

We develop a theory of outsourcing in which there is market power in one factor market (labor) and no market power in a second factor market (capital). There are two intermediate goods: one labor-intensive and the other capital-intensive. We show there is always outsourcing in the market allocation when a friction limiting outsourcing is not too big. The key factor underlying the result is that labor demand is more elastic, the greater the labor share. Integrated plants pay higher wages than the specialist producers of labor-intensive intermediates. We derive conditions under which there are multiple equilibria that vary in the degree of outsourcing. Across these equilibria, wages are lower the greater the degree of outsourcing. Wages fall when outsourcing increases in response to a decline in the outsourcing friction.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14856

Published: 5 "A Theory of Outsourcing and Wage Decline." American Economic Journal: Microeconomics , 3(2), May 2011: 38–59, with Julia Thornton Snider

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