Journal of Labor Research

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 263–274 | Cite as

Sweatshops and third world living standards: Are the jobs worth the sweat?

  • Benjamin Powell
  • David Skarbek


Many studies have shown that multinational firms pay more than domestic firms in Third World countries. Economists who criticize sweatshops have responded that multinational firms’ wage data do not address whether sweatshop jobs are above average because many of these jobs are with domestic subcontractors. We compare apparel industry wages and the wages of individual firms accused of being sweatshops to measures of the standard of living in Third World economies. We find that most sweatshop jobs provide their workers an above average standard of living.


Foreign Direct Investment Average Income Multinational Firm Apparel Industry Wage Data 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Academic Consortium on International Trade, ACIT Anti-Sweatshop Letter, < rsie/acit/Documents/Anti-SweatshopLetterPage.html>, July, 2000.Google Scholar
  2. Aitken, Brian, Ann Harrison, and Robert Lipsey. “Wages and Foreign Ownership: A Comparative Study of Mexico, Venezuela, and the United States.” Journal of International Economics 40 (May 1996): 345–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Appelbaum, Richard and Peter Dreier. “The Campus Anti-Sweatshop Movement.” American Prospect, September 1999.Google Scholar
  4. Branigin, William. “Chinese Sweatshops Labor for U.S. Retailers.” Washington Post, March 19, 1998.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, Drusilla, Alan Deardorff, and Robert Stern. “The Effects of Multinational Production on Wages and Working Conditions in Developing Countries.” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 9669, May 2003.Google Scholar
  6. Budd, John, Jozef Konings, and Matthew Slaughter. “International Rent Sharing in Multinational Firms.” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 8809, February 2002.Google Scholar
  7. Budd, John and Matthew Slaughter. “Are Profits Shared Across Borders? Evidence on International Rent Sharing.” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 8014, November 2002.Google Scholar
  8. Elliott, Kimberly and Richard Freeman. “White Hats or Don Quixotes? Human Rights Vigilantes in the Global Economy.” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 8102, January 2001.Google Scholar
  9. Eversley, Melanie. “McKinney Says Military Buys from Sweatshop.” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, December 6, 2000.Google Scholar
  10. Feenstra, Robert and Gordon Hanson. “Foreign Direct Investment and Relative Wages: Evidence from Mexico’s Maquiladoras.” Journal of International Economics 42(May 1997): 371–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Firoz, Nadeem and Caren Ammaturo. “Sweatshop Labour Practices: The Bottom Line to Bring Change to the New Millennium Case of the Apparel Industry.” Humanomics18(2002): 295.Google Scholar
  12. Foster. “No Sweatshops, Please.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 7, 2001.Google Scholar
  13. Greenhouse, Steve. “A Crusader Makes Celebrities Tremble.” New York Times, June 18, 1996.Google Scholar
  14. -. “Big-League Caps and Labor Flaps.” New York Times, August 21, 2001.Google Scholar
  15. Grow, Doug. “Sweatshop Opponents Keep Up the Pressure on Kohl’s: Members of St. Thomas the Apostle Add Their Voices with Christmas Messages to Executives.” Star Tribune, December 25, 2000.Google Scholar
  16. Hayden, Tom and Charles Kernaghan. “Pennies an Hour, and No Way Up.” New York Times, July 16, 2002. Henderson, David. “The Case for Sweatshops.” Weekly Standard, February 7, 1997.Google Scholar
  17. Hiam-White, Heather. “A Look at... Manufacturing Christmas: Their Labor, Our Gifts, Your Choices.” Washington Post, December 20, 1998.Google Scholar
  18. Holmstrom, David. “One Man’s Fight against Sweatshops.” Christian Science Monitor, July 3, 1996.Google Scholar
  19. Jones, Del. “Critics Tie Sweatshop Sneakers to ‘Air’ Jordan.” USA Today, June 6, 1996.Google Scholar
  20. Kaufman, Leslie and David Gonzalez. “Made in Squalor: Reform Has Limits.” New York Times, April 24, 2001.Google Scholar
  21. Kennel, Paul. “The Sweatshop Dilemma.” Christian Science Monitor, August 21, 1996.Google Scholar
  22. Krugman, Paul. “In Praise of Cheap Labor, Bad Jobs at Bad Wages Are Better Than No Jobs at All.” Slate, March 20, 1997.Google Scholar
  23. Lipsey, Robert and Fredrik Sjoholm. “Foreign Direct Investment and Wages in Indonesian Manufacturing.” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 8299, May 2001.Google Scholar
  24. Mallick, Heather. “Stop the World I Want to Get Off.” Toronto Sun, January 26, 1997.Google Scholar
  25. Mandle, Jay. “The Student Anti-sweatshop Movement: Limits and Potential.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 570(July 2000): 92–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. —. Globalization and the Poor. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
  27. Meyer, Tara. “No Widespread Abuse at Nike’s Asian Plants.” Chicago Sun-Times, June 25, 1997.Google Scholar
  28. Miller, John. “Why Economists Are Wrong about Sweatshops and the Antisweatshop Movement.” Challenge46(January/February 2003): 93–122.Google Scholar
  29. Moran, Theodore. Beyond Sweatshops.Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2002.Google Scholar
  30. National Labor Committee. “Sean John’s Sweatshops.” <>, May 28, 2004.Google Scholar
  31. -. “Toys of Misery 2004.” <>, May 28, 2004.Google Scholar
  32. -. “Baseball Workers Cry Foul.” <>, May 28, 2004.Google Scholar
  33. -. “Bangladeshi Workers Deserve Maternity Rights.” <>, May 28, 2004.Google Scholar
  34. -. “Why Is the NBA Exploiting 7-Cent-an-Hour and Slave Labor, and Supporting Brutal Military Dictators and Drug Lords in Burma?” <>, May 28, 2004.Google Scholar
  35. O’Connor, Anne-Marie. “The Plight of Women Around the World; Central America; Labor: Sweatshops Meet U.S. Consumer Demand.” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, September 3, 1995.Google Scholar
  36. Pabst, Georgia. “Nicaragua Union Leader Seeks Support for Garment Workers.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 20, 2000.Google Scholar
  37. Scholars Against Sweatshop Labor. <>, October 2001.Google Scholar
  38. Sneider, Jaime. “Good Propaganda, Bad Economics.” New York Times, May 16, 2000.Google Scholar
  39. Sowell, Thomas. “Third World Sweatshops: Why Cambodian Workers Bribe for ’Sweatshop’ Jobs.” Capitalism Magazine <>, January 27, 2004.Google Scholar
  40. Stelzer, Irwin. “Sweatshops Put Heat on Bosses.” Sunday Times, July 28, 1996.Google Scholar
  41. St. Petersburg Times. “Celebrities Should Endorse Products Made in America.” St. Petersburg Times, June 13, 1996.Google Scholar
  42. Tracinski, Robert. “Sweatshops or Opportunity for the Third World’s Poor?” San Diego Union-Tribune, June 1,2000.Google Scholar
  43. Washington Post. “For Some, an Uncomfortable Fit.” Washington Post, May 14, 2002.Google Scholar
  44. Wells, Jennifer. “T-Shirt Maker Struggles with Sweatshop Visuals.” Toronto Star, February 29, 2004.Google Scholar
  45. Williams, Walter. “Sweatshop Exploitation.” < sweatshop.html>, January 27, 2004.Google Scholar
  46. World Bank. World Development Indicators Online, <>, May 2004.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Powell
    • 1
  • David Skarbek
    • 1
  1. 1.San Jose State UniversitySan Jose

Personalised recommendations