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Importing political polarization? The electoral consequences of rising trade exposure


Autor, David; Dorn, David; Hanson, Gordon; Majlesi, Kaveh (2016). Importing political polarization? The electoral consequences of rising trade exposure. NBER working papers 22637, National Bureau of Economic Research.

Abstract

Has rising trade integration between the U.S. and China contributed to the polarization of U.S. politics? Analyzing outcomes from the 2002 and 2010 congressional elections, we detect an ideological realignment that is centered in trade-exposed local labor markets and that commences prior to the divisive 2016 U.S. presidential election. Exploiting the exogenous component of rising trade with China and classifying legislator ideologies by their congressional voting record, we find strong evidence that congressional districts exposed to larger increases in import competition disproportionately removed moderate representatives from office in the 2000s. Trade-exposed districts initially in Republican hands become substantially more likely to elect a conservative Republican, while trade-exposed districts initially in Democratic hands become more likely to elect either a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Polarization is also evident when breaking down districts by race: trade-exposed locations with a majority white population are disproportionately likely to replace moderate legislators with conservative Republicans, whereas locations with a majority non-white population tend to replace moderates with liberal Democrats. We further contrast the electoral impacts of trade exposure with shocks associated with generalized changes in labor demand and with the post-2006 U.S. housing market collapse.

Abstract

Has rising trade integration between the U.S. and China contributed to the polarization of U.S. politics? Analyzing outcomes from the 2002 and 2010 congressional elections, we detect an ideological realignment that is centered in trade-exposed local labor markets and that commences prior to the divisive 2016 U.S. presidential election. Exploiting the exogenous component of rising trade with China and classifying legislator ideologies by their congressional voting record, we find strong evidence that congressional districts exposed to larger increases in import competition disproportionately removed moderate representatives from office in the 2000s. Trade-exposed districts initially in Republican hands become substantially more likely to elect a conservative Republican, while trade-exposed districts initially in Democratic hands become more likely to elect either a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Polarization is also evident when breaking down districts by race: trade-exposed locations with a majority white population are disproportionately likely to replace moderate legislators with conservative Republicans, whereas locations with a majority non-white population tend to replace moderates with liberal Democrats. We further contrast the electoral impacts of trade exposure with shocks associated with generalized changes in labor demand and with the post-2006 U.S. housing market collapse.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:September 2016
Deposited On:24 Aug 2017 14:49
Last Modified:30 Aug 2017 03:10
Series Name:NBER working papers
Number of Pages:57
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3386/w22637

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