Container ports, local benefits and transportation worker earnings
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Over the past 50 years, containerization has both enabled and reflected the articulation of increasingly concentrated and complex global trade flows. Once close infrastructural, economic and institutional ties between seaports and port cities have been loosened, since major ports now serve producers and consumers in widely dispersed hinterlands. This process has been especially intense in North America, where west coast ports serve markets across the continent. At the same time, many of the external costs of increased port activity are incurred in port cities. Hence, questions about the changing nature of employment in port and related goods-handling sectors have become increasingly important for understanding the share of economic benefits received by port cities. This paper focuses on the effects of containerization, and related changes in transportation regulation, on port-logistics worker earnings in major United States port cities since 1975. A difference-in-differences framework is used to examine the relative annual earnings of dock, trucking and warehouse workers in major container port cities. The analysis shows that, with notable exceptions, port-logistics worker earnings in major container ports are not necessarily higher than those of comparable workers. The findings provide further insights into the strained relationship between seaports and port cities in the era of containerization and economic globalization.
KeywordsContainerization Dockworkers Earnings Port cities Trucking United States Warehousing
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