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The Impact of the Maquiladora Industry on U.S. Border Cities

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Abstract

For decades, the maquiladora industry has been a major economic engine along the U.S.–Mexico border. Since the 1970s, researchers have analyzed how the maquiladora industry affects cities along both sides of the border. Hanson produced the first comprehensive study on the impact of the maquiladoras on U.S. border cities, considering the effects of in-bond plants on both employment and wages. His estimates became useful rules of thumb for the entire U.S.–Mexico border; however, they have become dated. Using Hanson's framework, we estimate the maquiladora industry impact on U.S. border cities from 1990 to 2006. We find that a 10 percent increase in maquiladora production leads to a 0.5 to 0.9 percent increase in employment. We also find large differences among individual border cities. Furthermore, we estimate the cross-border maquiladora impacts before and after 2001 when border security begins to rise, and the global low-wage competition intensified after China joined the World Trade Organization. Empirical results indicate that U.S. border cities are less responsive to growth in maquiladora production from 2001 to 2006 than in the earlier period; however, when looking into specific sectors, we find that U.S. border city employment in service sectors is more responsive post-2001.

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