Research / BFI Working PaperAug 19, 2019

The Effects of Foreign Multinationals on Workers and Firms in the United States

Bradley Setzler, Felix Tintelnot

Governments go to great lengths to attract foreign multinational enterprises because these enterprises are thought to raise the wages paid to their employees (direct effects) and to improve outcomes at incumbent local firms (indirect effects). We construct the first U.S. employer-employee dataset with foreign ownership information from tax records to measure these direct and indirect effects. We find the average direct effect of a foreign multinational firm on its U.S. workers is a 7 percent increase in wages. This premium is larger for higher skilled workers and for the employees of firms from high GDP per capita countries. We leverage the past spatial clustering of foreign-owned firms by country of ownership to identify the indirect effects. An expansion in the foreign multinational share of commuting zone employment substantially increases the employment, value added, and – for higher earning workers – wages at local domestic-owned firms. Per job created by a foreign multinational, our estimates suggest annual gains of 16,000 USD to the aggregate wages of local incumbents, of which about two-thirds is due to indirect effects. We compare our findings to the value of subsidy deals received by foreign multinationals.

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