Trade with China kills Americans, study finds

A man walks his dog past a mural depicting factory workers in the historic Pullman neighborhood in Chicago © Andrew Nelles
New research has found a connection between rising mortality among middle-aged white American men and increased trade with China.

According to Federal Reserve economist Justin Pierce and Peter Schott of Yale University, a significant shift in the structure of the US economy may have become fatal for many workers in the country.

The study shows a “statistically significant relative increase in suicide and poisoning …concentrated among white males” from 2000 when President Clinton and Republican lawmakers allowed a major increase in imports from China.

Statistics showed that since then Chinese imports to the US have surged around five-fold to $483 billion last year.

The government’s change in policy led to competition with Chinese manufacturing which forced US factories to close. Many of those who had been laid off fell into depression or addiction.

“I’m in favor of free trade, but I’m also someone who believes that we should be honest about the consequences,” Schott said. “It doesn’t benefit everyone equally.”

Pierce and Schott examined records of deaths compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They found that even the areas with average levels of trade competition with China saw suicide increases of 3.5 percent and a 24 percent growth in the numbers of overdoses.

“Suicides could lead to more suicides or new economic consequences could take time to push people over the edge,” Schott told the Wall Street Journal.

He, however, did not recommend ceasing to liberalize global trade, claiming such a move “hurts everyone. We want the increases in productivity and reductions in prices that trade brings.”

The economist instead recommended more training for disenfranchised workers to help them move into growing areas of the economy.