Imports, Exports, and the American Worker

By Susan M. Collins | Go to book overview

SIX
Trade and the Social Structure of Economic Activity

Michael J. Piore

IN THE LAST fifteen years, the U.S. labor market has passed through a period of substantial structural adjustment. Very large numbers of people have been permanently displaced from stable, secure jobs and forced into unemployment and/or considerably less-attractive positions in the labor market, jobs inconsistent with their previous social status or accustomed patterns of life. We are emerging from this period with a distribution of wage and salary income not only more unequal than it was in the past but seemingly increasingly so. Given the rate of increase in average income levels, people in the lower part of the wage and salary distribution actually experience declines, not only in their social status, but in their absolute standard of living.1

Associated with these structural changes is a substantial increase in the involvement of the United States in the international marketplace, an increased involvement as measured by any number of indicators, but particularly by the weight of imports and exports in our national income. The precise role that trade has played is of course a matter of some dispute, one which this volume was intended to help clarify.2 Meanwhile, however, in

____________________
1
Levy and Murnane ( 1992).
2
Bound and Johnson ( 1992); Lawrence and Slaughter ( 1993); Murphy and Welch ( 1991); Katz and Murphy ( 1992); Kruse ( 1988).

-257-

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