Low-Skilled Liberalizers: Support for Globalization in Africa


Dolan, Lindsay R., and Helen V. Milner. Working Papers. “Low-Skilled Liberalizers: Support for Globalization in Africa”.

Full Text

Despite populist backlash to globalization in advanced industrial countries, developing countries have recently made several efforts to promote the free movement of people and goods. To shed light on this phenomenon, we investigate mass attitudes toward free trade and immigration in 35 African countries. Using Afrobarometer data as well as original survey data from Ghana and Uganda, we find that individuals hold views that are consistent with their economic self-interest. As factor endowment models predict for a sample of skill-scarce countries, low-skilled individuals are more likely to support free trade and immigration than high-skilled individuals. Moreover, the strongest and most robust negative effects of skill occur for the most skill-scarce countries in the sample. In two countries, we field original surveys containing more detailed measurements of trade attitudes and skill, and we continue to observe the predicted negative relationship. With all data, we control for cultural and other factors commonly thought to shape attitudes, finding that economic self-interest remains significant. The findings suggest that evidence against economic models attitudes toward globalization may have resulted, in part, from inadequate data from the developing world.