Hostname: page-component-f7d5f74f5-5d7d4 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-10-03T06:43:42.967Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Trade-based Diffusion of Labor Rights: A Panel Study, 1986–2002

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2009

University of Washington–Seattle
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Washington–Seattle
Brian Greenhill is Ph.D. candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Washington–Seattle, Box 353539, Seattle, WA 98195 (
Layna Mosley is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 361 Hamilton Hall, CB 3265, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3265 (
Aseem Prakash is Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Washington–Seattle, Gowen 39, Box 353530, Seattle, WA 98195-3530 (


This article investigates the nature of the linkages between trade and labor rights in developing countries. Specifically, we hypothesize that a “California effect” serves to transmit superior labor standards from importing to exporting countries, in a manner similar to the transmission of environmental standards. We maintain that, all else being equal, the labor standards of a given country are influenced not by its overall level of trade openness, but by the labor standards of its trading partners. We evaluate our hypothesis using a panel of 90 developing countries over the period 1986–2002, and we separately examine the extent to which the labor laws and the actual labor practices of the countries are influenced by those of their export destinations. We find that strong legal protections of collective labor rights in a country's export destinations are associated with more stringent labor laws in the exporting country. This California effect finding is, however, weaker in the context of labor rights practices, highlighting the importance of distinguishing between formal legislation and actual implementation of labor rights.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2009

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Abouharb, M. Rodwan, and Cingranelli, David. 2007. Human Rights and Structural Adjustment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Abrami, Regina M. 2003. “Worker Rights and Global Trade: The U.S.-Cambodia Bilateral Textile Trade Agreement.” Harvard Business School Case 703-034.Google Scholar
Aidt, Toke, and Tzannaos, Zafiris. 2002. Unions and Collective Bargaining: Economic Effects in a Global Environment. Washington, DC: World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baron, David. 2003. “Private Politics.” Journal of Economics and Management Strategy 12: 3166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bartley, Tim. 2005. “Corporate Accountability and the Privatization of Labor Standards: Struggles over Codes of Conduct in the Apparel Industry.” Research in Political Sociology 12: 211–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beck, Nathaniel N., and Katz, Jonathan, 2001. “Throwing Out the Baby with the Bath Water: A Comment on Green, Kim, and Yoon.” International Organization 55 (2): 487–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Becker, David G., and Sklar, Richard L., eds. 1999. Postimperialism and World Politics. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
Blanchflower, David G., and Bryson, Alex. 2003. “Changes over Time in Union Relative Wage Effects in the UK and US Revisited.” In International Handbook of Trade Unions, eds. Addison, John T. and Schnabel, Claus. Northhampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 197245.Google Scholar
Blanton, Shannon Lindsey, and Blanton, Robert G.. 2007. “What Attracts Foreign Investors? An Examination of Human Rights and Foreign Direct Investment.” Journal of Politics 69 (1): 143–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brooks, Sarah M. 2008. Social Protection and the Market in Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brune, Nancy, Garrett, Geoffrey, and Kogut, Bruce. 2004. “The International Monetary Fund and the Global Spread of Privatization.” IMF Staff Papers 51 (3): 195219.Google Scholar
Chiu, Catherine C. H. 2007. “Workplace Practices in Hong Kong–Invested Garment Factories in Cambodia.” Journal of Contemporary Asia 37 (4): 431–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chweiroth, Jeffrey. 2007. “Neoliberal Economists and Capital Account Liberalization in Emerging Markets.” International Organization 61 (2): 443–63.Google Scholar
CollinsworthTerry, J. Terry, J., Goold, William, and Harvey, Pharis J.. 1994. “Labor and Free Trade.” Foreign Affairs 77 (1): 813.Google Scholar
Compa, Lance, and Vogt, Jeffrey S.. 2001. “The Generalized System of Preferences: A 20-Year Review.” Comparative Law and Policy Journal 22 (2/3): 199238.Google Scholar
Daude, Christian, Mazza, Jacqueline, and Morrison, Andrew. 2003. “Core Labor Standards and Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean: Does Lax Enforcement of Labor Standards Attract Investors?” Interamerican Development Bank. Manuscript.Google Scholar
Elkins, Zachary, Guzman, Andrew T., and Simmons, Beth A.. 2006. “Competing for Capital: The Diffusion of Bilateral Investment Treaties, 1960–2000.” International Organization 60 (4): 811–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elliott, Kimberly Ann, and Freeman, Richard B.. 2003. Can Labor Standards Improve under Globalization? Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics.Google Scholar
Fair Labor Association (FLA). 2005. 2005 Annual Public Report. Washington, DC: FLA.Google Scholar
Flanagan, Robert J. 2006. Globalization and Labor Conditions: Working Conditions and Worker Rights in a Global Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Freeman, Richard B. 2007. “Labor Market Institutions around the World.” NBER Working Paper 13242 (July).Google Scholar
Garcia-Johnson, Ronie. 2000. Exporting Environmentalism: U.S. Multinational Chemical Corporations in Brazil and Mexico. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Gartzke, Erik, and Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede. 2006. “Identity and Conflict: Ties That Bind and Differences That Divide.” European Journal of International Relations 12 (1): 5387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gereffi, Gary, and Korzeniewicz, Miguel, eds. 1994. Commodity Chains and Global Capitalism. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede, and Ward, Michael D.. 2006. “Diffusion and the International Context of Democratization.” International Organization 60: 911–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gourevitch, Peter. 1978. “The Second Image Reversed: The International Sources of Domestic Politics.” International Organization 32 (4): 881912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Greenhill, Brian. Forthcoming. “The Company You Keep: International Socialization and the Diffusion of Human Rights Norms.” International Studies Quarterly.Google Scholar
Guthrie, Doug. 2006. China and Globalization. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Hafner-Burton, Emilie M. 2005. “Trading Human Rights: How Preferential Trade Agreements Influence Government Repression.” International Organization 59: 593629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hafner-Burton, Emilie M., and Tsutsui, Kiyoteru. 2005. “Human Rights in a Globalizing World: The Paradox of Empty Promises.” American Journal of Sociology 110 (5): 1373–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hall, Peter A., and Soskice, David, eds. 2001. Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hathaway, Oona A. 2002. “Do Human Rights Treaties Make a Difference?The Yale Law Journal 118 (8): 19352042.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Huber, Evelyne, and Stephens, John D.. 2001. Development and Crisis of the Welfare State: Parties and Policies in Global Markets. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kucera, David. 2002. “Core Labor Standards and Foreign Direct Investment.” International Labour Review 141: 3169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Locke, Richard M. 2003. “The Promise and Perils of Globalization: The Case of Nike.” In Management: Inventing and Delivering Its Future, eds. Schmalenese, Richard and Kochan, Thomas A.. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 3970.Google Scholar
Locke, Richard M., Qin, Fei, and Brause, Alberto. 2007. “Does Monitoring Improve Labor Standards? Lessons from Nike.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 61 (1): 331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meseguer, Covadonga. 2004. “What Role for Learning? The Diffusion of Privatization in Industrial and Latin American Countries.” Journal of Public Policy 24 (3): 229325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moran, Theodore, Graham, Edward M., and Blomstrom, Magnus, eds. 2005. Does Foreign Direct Investment Promote Development? Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics.Google Scholar
Mosley, Layna. 2008. “workers' Rights in Open Economies: Global Production and Domestic Institutions in the Developing World.” Comparative Political Studies 41: 674714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mosley, Layna, and Uno, Saika. 2007. “Racing to the Bottom or Climbing to the Top? Economic Globalization and Collective Labor Rights.” Comparative Political Studies 40 (8): 923–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Neumayer, Eric. 2005. “Do International Human Rights Treaties Improve Respect for Human Rights?Journal of Conflict Resolution 49 (6): 925–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Neumayer, Eric, and de Soysa, Indra. 2005. “Trade Openness, Foreign Direct Investment and Child Labor.” World Development 33 (1): 4363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Neumayer, Eric, and de Soysa, Indra. 2006. “Globalization and the Right to Free Association and Collective Bargaining: An Empirical Analysis.” World Development 34 (1): 3149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O'Rourke, Dara. 2003. “Outsourcing Regulation: Analyzing Non-Governmental Systems of Labor Standards and Monitoring.” Policy Studies Journal 31: 129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Poe, Stephen C., Tate, Neal, and Keith, Linda Camp. 1999. “Repression of the Human Right to Personal Integrity Revisited: A Global Cross-National Study Covering the Years 1976–1993.” International Studies Quarterly 43 (2): 291313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Prakash, Aseem. 2000. Greening the Firm. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Prakash, Aseem, and Potoski, Matthew. 2006. “Racing to the Bottom: Globalization, Environmental Governance, and ISO 14001.” American Journal of Political Science 50 (2): 347–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Prakash, Aseem, and Potoski, Matthew. 2007. “Investing Up: FDI and the Cross-National Diffusion of ISO 14001.” International Studies Quarterly 51 (3): 723–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Quinn, Dennis P. 1997. “The Correlates of Change in International Financial Regulation.” American Political Science Review 91 (September): 531–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Quinn, Dennis P., and Toyoda, A. Maria. 2007. “Ideology and Voter Preferences as Determinants of Financial Globalization.” American Journal of Political Science 51 (January): 344–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Richards, David L., Gelleny, Ronald D., and Sacko, David H.. 2001. “Money with a Mean Streak? Foreign Economic Penetration and Government Respect for Human Rights in Developing Countries.” International Studies Quarterly 45: 219–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rodríguez-Garavito, Cesar. 2005. “Global Governance and Labor Rights: Codes of Conduct and Anti-Sweatshop Struggles in Global Apparel Factories in México and Guatemala.” Politics and Society 33 (2): 203–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rose, Andrew. 2004. “Do We Really Know That the WTO Increases Trade?American Economic Review 94 (1): 98114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Siedman, Gay. 2007. Beyond the Boycott. New York: Russsell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Simmons, Beth A., Dobbin, Frank, and Garrett, Geoffrey, eds. 2008. The Global Diffusion of Markets and Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simmons, Beth A., and Elkins, Zachary. 2004. “The Globalization of Liberalization: Policy Diffusion in the International Economy.” American Political Science Review 98 (1): 171–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Gare, and Feldman, Dan. 2003. Company Codes of Conduct and International Standards: An Analytical Comparison, Part I of II. Washington, DC: World Bank Group.Google Scholar
Spar, Debora, and LaMure, L. T.. 2003. “The Power of Activism.” California Management Review 45 (3): 78101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vogel, David. 1995. Trading Up: Consumer and Environmental Regulation in a Global Economy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Vreeland, James Raymond. 2008. “Political Institutions and Human Rights: Why Dictatorships Enter into the United Nations Convention Against Torture.” International Organization 62 (1): 65101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weyland, Kurt. 2007. Bounded Rationality and Policy Diffusion: Social Sector Reform in Latin America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar