Essays on Foreign Direct Investment, International Trade, and Inequality
This thesis consists of three empirical essays on the impact on inequality of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), international trade, and technological progress that comes with them. The first essay examines whether FDI contributes towards income convergence of the host country, drawing evidence from provincial data in Vietnam. Using the spatial econometrics approach and an exogenous set of distance-based weights to characterize spatial dependences, we identify the substantial role of both spatial interactions and FDI spillovers in bringing provinces closer together in terms of income level. We show that high-tech FDI and industry FDI agglomerations contribute significantly more towards the convergence process than low-tech FDI and agglomerations formed by FDI firms coming from the same country. A similar pattern also emerges when we consider consumption convergence. The second essay studies the impact of local labour demand shocks from FDI firms on wage distribution, using microdata from the Vietnam Household Labour Force Survey. We use Bartik shift-share instrument based on the interaction between predetermined local employment structure and time-varying nationwide employment to deal with the endogeneity between local wage level and multinational firms’ locational decisions. Overall, we find that surges in foreign hiring increase average local wage, but the benefits are considerably higher for workers who work in lower-skilled occupations or have lower educational attainments. Given the prevailing skill and education wage premium, this heterogeneous effect provides evidence that the presence of FDI firms can reduce wage inequality. The third essay analyzes the association between income inequality, dependence on the manufacturing sector, and the availability of vocational education as an alternative track to general tertiary education. We find that in countries where tertiary and vocational are the two main available pathways for students to pursue, as economic recovery, trade, and automation increases the value-added of the manufacturing sector but decreases the number of manufacturing jobs, improving access to vocational education is associated with a larger decline in inequality compared to tertiary education. Therefore, in the long run, limited public resources should be directed towards vocational education in order to smooth out adjustment to trade and skilled-biased technological change. A case study comparing the United States and Germany in terms of their recovery paths from the Global Financial Crisis provide further evidence for our claims.