Racial and Ethnic Inequality and the China Shock
We examine how the labor market effects of import competition vary across Black, Hispanic, and white populations. For a given level of exposure to imports from China, we find no evidence that minority workers are relatively more harmed than white workers in terms of their manufacturing employment. However, Hispanic workers are overrepresented in exposed industries and therefore face greater manufacturing employment losses relative to whites on net. In addition, they experienced relative losses in non-manufacturing employment, largely due to their lower educational attainment and baseline industry mix. Overall, the China shock increased the Hispanic-white employment gap by about 5%, though these effects were short lived. In contrast, Black workers are less likely to live in areas or work in industries facing import competition, resulting in less negative effects on manufacturing employment relative to whites. In addition, exposed Black workers experienced gains in non-manufacturing and overall employment with no measurable wage consequences, while white workers saw depressed employment rates due to the China shock. The lasting effects of import competition in exposed areas were driven by white workers, while the experience of Black workers suggests that movement into non-manufacturing jobs was possible. White workers did not take advantage of these opportunities, perhaps due to better safety nets or perceptions that the available jobs were poor substitutes for those lost in manufacturing. The China shock narrowed the Black-white employment gap by about 15%. While many recent labor market trends have exacerbated Black-white gaps, import competition is a modest offsetting force.
We disclose no additional funding sources. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.