Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2020


The supposed decline of the United States manufacturing industry has been a central topic of political concerns and research for decades. The classic story is that America’s might in this sector was seen as the backbone of the economy and a central factor in the nation’s economic dominance relative to the rest of the world. In light of this, it’s easy to see how a decline in the manufacturing base has become such an important issue. In recent years, two main theories have emerged as to what is to blame for the loss American manufacturing jobs over the last two decades: trade agreements and improving technology (or automation). The general argument regarding trade is that the expansion of globalization in the last few decades, via trade agreements like NAFTA, have led to companies closing down American factories and moving production to other nations in order to take advantage of cheaper labor. While this certainly provides rich grounds for research, having inspired much already, this particular paper will instead focus on the impact of technology and automation. In this case, the argument proposes that technological advancements over the last 3 decades have caused a major shift in the workplace. The idea is that technology has dramatically improved productivity and efficiency, so much so that many jobs that were once performed by humans can now be performed by robotics or other technological systems. In this way, some workers have effectively become obsolete, leading to declining employment numbers due to lack of demand for actual human labor. Much research has been done on this topic as well, which will be discussed at length in the following section. This paper aims to make its unique contribution to the literature by looking specifically at the impact of technology on productivity in the automotive manufacturing sector, an important subset of the overall manufacturing sector (particularly to a certain geographic region).

Is Part Of

Student Papers in Local and Global Regional Economies