Labor (Im)mobility and the politics of trade protection in majoritarian democracies

Bumba Mukherjee, Dale L. Smith, Quan Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The two workhorse models of trade, Heckscher-Ohlin and Ricardo-Viner, provide leverage in explaining how societal groups divide over trade protection. Tension between the two trade models has significantly influenced the scholarship of trade politics, with explanations of trade politics adopting either the factor-based approach or the industry-based framework. No study has investigated how changes in factor mobility as a continuous variable influence the change in trade protection as a policy outcome. Building on recent scholarship on factor mobility, this article models explicitly how intersectoral labor (im)mobility and political competition between parties affect changes in trade protection in majoritarian democracies. The theoretical model predicts that when intersectoral labor mobility decreases governments in majoritarian democracies are more likely to raise trade barriers. We test this prediction in a time-series, cross-sectional sample of 32 OECD and non-OECD majoritarian democracies observed between 1980 and 2000. The empirical results corroborate our theory and remain robust when we control for alternative explanations, employ different estimation techniques, and use different measures of trade protection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-308
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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