Foreign Trade Competition Has Hurt Black and Disadvantaged Workers Most, Report Says

That trend has disadvantaged people of color, who tend to receive less education on average, the report said. But, even when controlling for education level, white workers have fared better during trade-related disruptions than others, the report said.

That likely reflects the negative impacts of discrimination and disparate access to transportation, training and technology, as well as of other barriers, researchers have suggested.

“The limited literature shows that, in the face of trade shocks, Black and other nonwhite workers fare worse than their white counterparts,” the report concluded.

The report cautions that many implications of trade remain under-researched, especially when it comes to the potentially positive effect of increased exports on U.S. workers, and to trade in services, such as telecommunications, consulting, legal services, call centers and other fields.

The International Trade Commission based the report on discussions with workers and experts that it convened in March and April, as well as a review of pre-existing academic literature on the effects of trade policy. The report examines the impact of trade by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age, and it looks at the effect of trade on local communities, like the areas around Detroit and Fresno, Calif.

Workers and other experts who participated in the conversations discussed how the rise of foreign factories had reduced bargaining power for American workers, leading to lower wages and benefits, especially for Black workers, the report said. The workers said factory closures also had negative effects on local businesses, though some highlighted the positive impacts trade had made on their communities.

The participants argued that people of color and disadvantaged groups were less able to weather shocks like job losses because of factors like limited educational opportunities, low geographic mobility and discrimination, according to the report.

They advocated more training and community programs to help underserved communities grapple with these challenges. That included highlighting the benefits of the long-running Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which lapsed this year after Congress failed to appropriate funding for it.

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