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A Note on the Effect of Rising Trade Exposure on the 2016 Presidential Election

Autor, David and Dorn, David and Hanson, Gordon and Majlesi, Kaveh (2016): A Note on the Effect of Rising Trade Exposure on the 2016 Presidential Election.

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Abstract

This research note examines whether the exposure of local labor markets to increased import competition from China effected voting in the U.S. presidential election in 2016. It relates the change in the county-level Republican two-party vote share between 2000 and 2016 to the growth in local labor markets’ exposure to Chinese import penetration. We find a robust positive effect of rising import competition on Republican vote share gains. The magnitude of the Republican gains is non-trivial. A counterfactual study of closely contested states suggests that Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania would have elected the Democrat instead of the Republican candidate if, ceteris paribus, the growth in Chinese import penetration had been 50 percent lower than the actual growth during the period of analysis. The Democrat candidate would also have obtained a majority in the electoral college in this counterfactual scenario.

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