Globalization, Trade Imbalances, and Labor Market Adjustment

Award Year


Grant Type

Early Career Research Award


Why should we care about trade deficits? According to prominent theories of trade imbalances, trade deficits are a mechanism through which nations insure against negative shocks and smooth consumption over time; indeed, in these models the deficit has no bearing on the actual implications of trade shocks. This research argues that in more realistic settings with slow and imperfect reallocation of resources across sectors, trade deficits can have important implications for the adjustment process in response to trade shocks (such as trade liberalization or the emergence of China as a major global player). Concretely, maintaining large trade deficits for extended periods of time can substantially prolong the pain of trade-displaced workers, magnifying the unequal effects of trade on workers. If the government's objective function penalizes inequality, this magnification effect of can have important trade policy implications.