|Source: Matthieu Riegler, Wikimedia Commons|
The most compelling lesson I took away from Dr. Dedrick's and his colleagues' work was that the U.S. has undoubtedly lost a lot of manufacturing production jobs to other countries, but much of the design work has remained onshore. As a result, the United States appears to be keeping substantial shares of the profits, jobs, and wages generated from products manufactured via global production chains, such as the iPod. U.S. employment in engineering and high-skilled professional jobs associated with such production have proven resilient. Bilateral trade statistics, such as those showing a large deficit in U.S.-China goods trade, risk painting a misleading picture of the distribution of benefits from the iPod and other such "Made in China" products.
However, the negative impacts of the globalization of production on (former) production workers in the United States appear undeniable. Even if the shift of those jobs out of the United States ultimately produces net benefits for the U.S. economy--which is a strong possibility--those so displaced are left all too often with few ready options for employment, at least at the wage levels they enjoyed previously.
Here's the big takeaway for me: policymakers seeking an appropriate response to the decline in U.S. manufacturing employment should focus less on trade policy and far more intently on education and workforce development. We need a far more cohesive and aggressive national strategy for upgrading the skills of our present workers and educating our students for the high-skilled science, engineering, and technology jobs that are critical to maintaining the United States' edge in innovation--and that are far more likely than lower-skilled production jobs to remain on-shore while continuing to offer attractive wages.