Data 7 – trade and migration

Charts and maps all about global openess: to trade, to finance, and to the migration of workers around the world.

Decades of dramatic technological improvements have brought the world together. In 1920, a three minute call from New York to Los Angeles would cost over $15. Today, it costs almost nothing. Likewise, the costs of international goods transportation have also plummeting.


With these changes, trade and immigration, the international flows of goods and people, have grown. Each of the visualisations below are interactive – hover over them to reveal more detail and dig deeper.



We all own smartphones, and we all wear clothes produced by the ‘fast fashion’ industry. But where does the stuff we buy come from?

Just three countries host the world’s 25 largest shoe factories, all of which happen to supply Nike or Adidas.


How much trade do the world’s largest countries do? Explore the chart below to see which countries trade the most and how much trade has increased relative to GDP.


This increase is not just due to technology. Another reason has been the proliferation of trade agreements. Use the slider on the chart below to see how the number of other countries each country has a trade agreement with has increased. However, this increase is not inevitable; see what happens to the UK before and after “Brexit” – when Britain voted to leave the European Union.


The UK is now in Regional Trade Agreements with 66 other countries but many in Europe are notably absent from this list. Click around other countries to see their trade deals.


Bad Trade?

A principal concern many people have about free trade is that it might depress wages or lead to unemployment among those workers who compete with foreign labor supply. In the US, key concerns are trade with China, and with Mexico, via NATFA.

The chart below shows an almost inverse relationship between imports from China and manufacturing jobs. The stagnation of growth in imports seems to coincide with the slowing of the decline in manufacturing employment.


Following the pioneering work of David Ricardo, many economists have argued that that countries can be better off by specializing and increasing trade.

Until the early 2000s, US imports and wages were moving in the same direction but more recently, this relationship seems to have reversed, with declining imports coinciding with rising wages.


However, both these charts may be missing a crucial component: output.

We can compare the relationship between total manufacturing jobs and industrial output by indexing both measures from the same starting year (use the slider to adjust). The economic slowdowns of 2001, 2008, and 2020 are identifiable by three distinct periods of sharp decline in both jobs and output.

In the 1990s, the total number of manufacturing jobs remained steady while industrial output grew by 60%. Perhaps it is these productivity gains, such as from increased automation, that are a main contributor to the decline in manufacturing jobs. In the E4E course we will dig deeper into evidence on (a) particular US states and (b) countries – are the gains from trade as real as David Ricardo thought?



Today, there are almost 200 million more international migrants than in 1970, and one in 28 people worldwide have immigrated from one country to another.


Some countries have seen the arrival of many migrants, whilst others have seen many emigrate. For ever country in the world, except Norway and Australia, more people have emigrated to the US than vice-versa. This includes Mexico with over 10M Mexican immigrants living in the US – almost 8% of Mexico’s population. Use the menu to see cumulative immigration to and from each country.


These differences can be explained in part by looking at push and pull factors for immigration. The map below shows multiple factors that can influence decisions to come and go.

In our E4E lectures and classes we discuss the benefits and costs of migration: what does the evidence say? And what should policymakers do?