Regional income inequality and international trade

Julie A. Silva, Robin M. Leichenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


This study investigates the effects of trade on income inequality across regions in the United States. Using both structural and price-based measures of regional trade involvement, we evaluate the effects of trade on inequality within and across states, the metropolitan and nonmetropolitan portions of the states, and the major census regions. Across all states and metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, we found that trade affects inequality primarily via import and export prices. In contrast to our expectations, however, a weaker dollar - more expensive imports and cheaper exports - is associated with the worsening of a state's position relative to other states and greater inequality within the state. Across the census regions, both our price and orientation measures had significant effects, but the direction of these effects varied by region. Whereas many regions benefited from cheaper imports, states in regions that are traditionally home to low-wage sectors, including the Southeast and South Central regions, were made relatively worse off by lower import prices and by greater orientation toward import-competing goods. Our findings reinforce notions about the uneven impacts of globalization and suggest that policy measures are needed to ensure that both the benefits and costs of involvement in international trade are shared across regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-286
Number of pages26
JournalEconomic Geography
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


  • Economic globalization
  • Regional development
  • Regional income inequality


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