Immigration and International Trade in U.S. Manufactured Goods

by Matthew Famiglietti and Fernando Leibovici

Some U.S. states appear to import and export more manufactured goods than others. Might immigrant workers play a role?

Immigrants bring with them knowledge of foreign languages, markets, and customs, potentially making it easier for them to form business connections abroad and increase exports of manufactured goods. Similarly, their familiarity with foreign goods or processes might improve domestic production, increasing imports of manufactured goods. Additionally, skilled immigrants may increase the productivity of domestic firms and make domestic firms more competitive internationally, facilitating additional trade. 

There might be other noncausal reasons why immigrant intensity and trade intensity could be correlated, however. For instance, border states or those with coastlines might be likely to trade more internationally while also being more likely to have more foreign-born workers. The goal of this essay is to document the empirical relation between these two factors, leaving a deeper investigation into the causal nature of this relation for future work. 

Thus, we ask, to what extent are the proportions of immigrants in the manufacturing workforces of U.S. states correlated with cross-state differences in international manufacturing trade?


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