An official website of the United States government.

We've made some changes to EPA.gov. If the information you are looking for is not here, you may be able to find it on the EPA Web Archive or the January 19, 2017 Web Snapshot.

Working Paper: Technology, International Trade, and Pollution from U.S. Manufacturing

Paper Number: 2008-02

Document Date: 02/2008

Author(s): Arik Levinson

Subject Area(s): International Trade; Industrial Sources

Keywords: pollution havens; trade and environment; pollution intensity

Abstract: Total pollution emitted by U.S. manufacturers declined over the past 30 years by about 60 percent, even though real manufacturing output increased 70 percent. This improvement must result from a combination of two trends: (1) changes in production or abatement processes ("technology"); or (2) changes in the mix of goods manufactured in the United States, which itself may result from increased net imports of pollution-intensive goods ("international trade"). I first show that most of the decline in pollution from U.S. manufacturing has been the result of changing technology, rather than changes in the mix of goods produced, although the pace of that technology change has slowed over time. Second, I present evidence that increases in net imports of pollution-intensive goods are too small to explain more than about half of the pollution reductions from the changing mix of goods produced in the United States. Together, these two findings demonstrate that shifting polluting industries overseas has played at most a minor role in the cleanup of U.S. manufacturing.

Published: Levinson, Arik. 2009. "Technology, International Trade, and Pollution from U.S. Manufacturing," American Economic Review, 99(5): 2177–2192.

This paper is part of the Environmental Economics Working Paper Series.

You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.