Each year since 1970 the mortality rate of United States (US) citizens has declined. Only non-Hispanic white individuals between the ages of 45 and 54 have experienced a reversal of this trend between 1998 and 2015. One possibility is that the decline of manufacturing jobs in the 2000s, particularly in low skill occupations, has led to an increase in deaths for this group, who is disproportionately represented in the sector. In order to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, China became more open to trade throughout the 1990’s and US imports from China spiked as a result. Increased import competition from China is one cause of the decline of the manufacturing sector in the US, but other factors have played a role as well. Another possibility is that the technological change has led to a decrease in net jobs for routine-intensive occupations.
This paper looks at the effects of a US commuting zone’s (CZ) exposure to import competition from China and its exposure to technological change on its mortality rate between 2000 and 2007. The analysis identifies the relationship between a CZ’s exposure to import competition from China, its number of routine intensive occupations in 2000, its change in manufacturing employment as a share of total employment, its crude death rate per 100,000 persons, and its crude death rate of non-Hispanic white individuals. The results show that a CZ’s exposure to import competition from China and its number of routine intensive occupations both negatively affect its change in manufacturing employment as a share of total employment. A CZ’s exposure to import competition from China does not affect the change in either crude death rate, but a CZ’s number of routine intensive occupations negatively affects the change in both death rates. It can be concluded that the number of routine intensive occupations in a CZ negatively affects its change in manufacturing employment as a share of total employment, which negatively affects its crude death rate of non-Hispanic white individuals. This study will add to the existing literature and help policy makers understand the effects of automation on mortality.