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Employment in the U.S. apparel industry has been declining for many years. Recent institutional changes such as the World Trade Organization's (WTO) agreement to phase out the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA) and the implementation of NAFTA have contributed to the decline, but the story is more complex. Some U.S. regions have experienced profound employment losses while apparel employment has grown substantially in other regions. The purpose of this article is to explain regional variations in apparel-industry employment changes in the context of the long-term national decline, giving special attention to the role immigrant labor has played in apparel relocation decisions. The first section of this article provides an overview of the apparel industry focusing on recent trends and the apparent reasons driving them. A theoretical section that places the observed behavior in a theoretical context follows. The theoretical discussion provides the basis for the empirical work presented in the third section. Three specific hypotheses will be offered and tested using an empirical model operationalized with county level observations from the 1990-1996 period. Finally, the results of the empirical estimation are reported and conclusions drawn.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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