David Dorn, University of Zurich: Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure

Department seminar. David Dorn is a Professor of International Trade and Labor Markets at the University of Zurich. He will present a paper entitled "Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure", co-authored by David Autor, Gordon Hanson, and Kaveh Majlesi.

Photo of David Dorn

David Dorn. Photo: University of Zurich


Has rising import competition 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 congressional voting records, we find strong evidence that congressional districts exposed to larger increases in import penetration disproportionately removed moderate representatives from office in the 2000s. Trade-exposed districts with an initial majority white population or initially in Republican hands became substantially more likely to elect a conservative Republican, while trade-exposed districts with an initial majority-minority population or initially in Democratic hands became more likely to elect a liberal Democrat. We interpret these results as supporting a political economy literature that connects adverse economic conditions to support for nativist politicians. We also contrast the electoral impacts of trade exposure with shocks associated with generalized changes in labor demand and the post-2006 U.S. housing market collapse.

Read the paper here (.pdf)

Host: Manudeep Bhuller

Published Apr. 24, 2017 2:55 PM - Last modified Jan. 17, 2019 1:16 PM