For more than a decade, there have been two important trends in the American economy. The first trend has been toward increasing openness of the economy to the international flows of goods, money, people, and ideas. The second has been very slow or even negative growth in real wages and a widening disparity in the distribution of income, particularly between relatively skilled and unskilled workers. Many observers suspect that these two trends are connected: increasing competition from foreign producers, particularly in low-wage developing countries, may have contributed to stagnation in US real wages and a worsening income distribution. These concerns have led to proposals to slow or reverse the internationalization of the American economy in order to bolster real wages, preserve jobs, and prevent a worsening income distribution. The issue is hotly debated among analysts and policymakers.
This study will provide a fresh and comprehensive analysis of theory and empirical evidence on the relationships among trade, employment and wages, and income distribution. It will explore the full range of options available to policymakers, including slowing the pace of trade liberalization, providing adjustment assistance to trade-impacted workers, and encouraging investment in human and physical capital.