Workers' Views of the Impact of Trade on Jobs


  • Clair Brown,

    1. University of California at Berkeley
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  • Julia Lane,

    1. American Institutes for Research and BETA - University of Strasbourg, CNRS
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  • Timothy Sturgeon

    1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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    • This research was made possible by support from the Sloan Foundation and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California at Berkeley. We are grateful for the research support provided by Sean Tanner, Sarah Anders, and Hwa Ryung Lee. Lori Kletzer generously provided her M index data, and Tim Mulcahy and Chet Bowie of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago provided access to confidential GSS data in the NORC data enclave. We also acknowledge the invaluable efforts of Norman Bradburn and Alma Kuby in developing high-quality survey questions. Key input was also received from Eileen Appelbaum, Arne Kalleberg, Rosemary Batt, Frank Levy, Susan Helper, Melissa Appleyard, Lori Kletzer, Peter Gourevitch, Rafiq Dossani, and John Paul Macduffie.


This article uses new data to examine how workers' perceptions of the impact of trade on jobs like theirs are related to economic variables representing their career paths, job characteristics, and local labor market conditions. We find that only 17 percent of workers think trade creates jobs. And even fewer workers (4–7 percent) in any industry think trade has created better jobs. We find that workers' perceptions do not reflect their job characteristics or the movability of their jobs. Their perceptions of trade primarily reflect local labor market conditions (hiring and separation rates) and education. The determinants of workers' perceptions of trade present a different pattern compared with their perceptions of job security.