How dependent counties are on trade: Exports as a proportion of the local economy

300 to more than 500,000 jobs

directly related to export activity in 2015

How dependent counties are on trade:

Exports as a proportion of the local economy

300 to more than 500,000 jobs

directly related to export activity in 2015

Seattle

Detroit

New York

Chicago

Los Angeles

Dallas

Houston

Miami

Alaska

Hawaii

How dependent counties are on trade: Exports as a proportion of the local economy

300 to more than 500,000 jobs

directly related to export activity in 2015

Seattle

The historic core of America's auto industry around Detroit still contains many counties with vehicle plants and high concentrations of export potential.

Detroit

New York

Chicago

D.C.

Denver

San Francisco

Las Vegas

Los Angeles

Phoenix

The Carolinas' 20th-century textile mills have mostly given way to plants making exportable products like vehicles, jet engines, electronics and pharmaceuticals.

 

Atlanta

Los Angeles and the nation's biggest metro areas have the largest direct ties to exports: 3.8 million jobs and $1.2 trillion in goods and services. But those connections make up a below-average share of the cities' giant economies.

Dallas

Florida tourism dwarfs

trade-related businesses

and jobs. But even in the shadow of attractions such as Disney World, advanced

manufacturing is growing.

 

Houston

Miami

Alaska

Hawaii

When President Trump talks trade, it’s often about fighting to get back the jobs the United States has lost. He focuses on sweeping measures, such as rewriting the free-trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, or new taxes to make imports more expensive and boost competing American goods.

The bold actions Trump has proposed could succeed in preserving jobs or bringing them back to American shores. However, they could also end up having unintended negative consequences, economists say. Barriers to imports, for example, could cut into the profits of American manufacturers by raising prices on parts and supplies. They could spark retaliation from other countries and even a harmful trade war, where countries take turns hiking restrictions to undercut each other’s goods and services, raising prices for consumers in the process.

The effect of a trade war on U.S. communities could be significant and widespread, according to research from the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. Nearly 6 million U.S. jobs are directly tied to exports. Another 6 million are indirectly tied to trade — for example, the driver who transports a truck load of widgets to the port.

While exposure to trade differs substantially across the country, every U.S. metro area has some exposure, with at least $1 out of every $20 generated in the local economy coming from exports. Most cities get much more. That means these cities have a lot to gain as well as potentially lose from major changes to trade policy, said Joseph Parilla, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

Here’s the areas are most dependent on exports:

Here are the top products shipped from the areas that are most dependent on exports. Most American products are exported to Mexico, Canada and China.

Seattle

Aircraft and farm products

 

Portland, Ore.

Computers and electronics

 

Corn,

soybeans and meat

Vehicles, transportation

equipment and parts

Mich.

Ogden, Utah

Electronics

Iowa

Neb.

Ohio

Ind.

Ky.

Wichita

Aerospace

N.C.

Tenn.

S.C.

Pharmaceuticals,

aircraft parts

and tires

Ft. Worth

Computers and

electronics

Houston area

Petroleum products

and chemicals

Here are the top products shipped from the areas that are most dependent on exports.

Most American products are exported to Mexico, Canada and China.

Seattle

Aircraft and farm products

 

Portland, Ore.

Computers and electronics

 

Corn, soybeans, meat and farm

machinery

Vehicles, transportation

equipment and parts

Mich.

Ogden, Utah

Electronics

Iowa

Neb.

Ohio

Ind.

Ky.

Wichita

Aerospace

N.C.

Tenn.

S.C.

Pharmaceuticals,

aircraft parts and tires

Ft. Worth

Computers and

electronics

Houston area

Petroleum products

and chemicals

Parilla says that America’s largest cities have big and diverse economies, including sources of economic growth that can’t be traded with other countries, such as tourism or government. But small towns are much more likely to have specialized in one or two industries that are tied to trading abroad.

The Brookings data ranks the cities that are most dependent on exports and with the most export-related jobs. Small Midwestern cities that export auto parts and other manufactured goods appear high on the list, as do coastal cities that export chemicals and petroleum byproducts.

EXPORTS AS

PERCENT OF GDP

METRO AREA

50.6%

40

36.9

34.5

34.1

30.9

29.1

25.1

24.3

24.1

Columbus, Ind.

Beaumont, Tex.

Lake Charles, La.

Elkhart, Ind.

Kokomo, Ind.

Lafayette, Ind.

Decatur, Ala.

Fond du Lac, Wis.

Baton Rouge, La.

Spartanburg, S.C.

Topping the list is Columbus, Ind. — the home base for engine-maker Cummins Inc. and other automotive manufacturers, and the hometown of Vice President Pence. About half of its local gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic activity, is tied to exporting abroad.

The geographic distribution of trade has interesting implications for politics, and for Trump. Brookings calculates that the counties that voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton actually produced most of America’s exports in goods and services — about 58 percent in 2015, compared to 42 percent for Trump.

However, because Clinton voters are concentrated in large, economically diverse cities, exports actually account for a greater proportion of economy in counties that voted for Trump than in counties that voted for Clinton. That means Trump voters would likely end up feeling the heaviest effects from changes to trade, Parilla says.

According to Brookings estimates, exports make up 13 percent of local GDP in counties won by Trump, compared to 10 percent in counties won by Clinton.

Exports as a proportion

of the local economy

LARGE CITIES

More than 500,000 residents

in metro area and

4.3 million export-related jobs

50%

40

30

19%

Baton Rouge

20

10

0

50

25

0

25

50

Clinton

Trump

Winner’s margin of victory,

in percentage points

MEDIUM CITIES

200,000 to 500,000 residents

and 472,000 jobs

50%

40%

Beaumont, Tex.

40

30

20

10

0

50

25

0

25

50

Clinton

Trump

SMALL CITIES

Less than 200,000 residents

and 300,000 jobs

50%

51%

Columbus, Ind.

40

30

20

10

0

50

25

0

25

50

Clinton

Trump

LARGE CITIES

More than 500,000 residents

in metro area and

4.3 million export-related jobs

50%

Metro areas that rely on exports for 16 to 50% of their economy tended to vote for Trump.

40

30

19%

Baton Rouge

20

Most cities rely on exports for 8 to 16%

of their GDP.

10

Cities with less than 8% of GDP from exports are typically tourism hubs.

0

50

25

0

25

50

Clinton

Trump

Winner’s margin of victory, in percentage points

MEDIUM CITIES

200,000 to 500,000 residents

and 472,000 jobs

SMALL CITIES

Less than 200,000 residents

and 300,000 jobs

50%

51%

Columbus, Ind.

40%

Beaumont, Tex.

40

30

20

10

0

50

25

0

25

50

50

25

0

25

50

Clinton

Trump

Clinton

Trump

LARGE CITIES

More than 500,000 residents

in metro area and

4.3 million export-related jobs

MEDIUM CITIES

200,000 to 500,000 residents

and 472,000 jobs

SMALL CITIES

Less than 200,000 residents

and 300,000 jobs

50%

51%

Columbus, Ind.

40%

Beaumont, Tex.

Metro areas that rely on exports for 16 to 50% of their economy tended to vote for Trump.

40

30

19%

Baton Rouge

20

Most cities rely on exports for 8 to 16%

of their GDP.

10

Cities with less than 8% of GDP from exports are typically tourism hubs.

0

50

25

0

25

50

50

25

0

25

50

50

25

0

25

50

Clinton

Trump

Clinton

Trump

Clinton

Trump

Winner’s margin of victory, in percentage points

You can see these trends in the charts above. Larger cities of more than 500,000 residents rely on exports for less of their GDP and were more likely to lean toward Clinton. But in smaller cities where a greater proportion of economic growth comes from exports, voters were more likely to vote for Trump.

For these areas, new trade policies could have benefits. For example, if Trump renegotiates the free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, U.S. manufacturers could end up selling more goods to neighboring countries. However, it’s possible any trade benefits would go to other communities entirely. Many of the manufacturing jobs that have been created in the U.S. in recent years have not come back to the same places that lost them.

There’s also a chance that changes to trade could hold unintended consequences for these smaller, export-focused cities, says Parilla. “Even though many have, I think, struggled in terms of their industrial transitions over the past 30 years, they still have important export bases that [help] drive their economies,” Parilla says. “They’ve got more to potentially lose if there are major uncertainties in trade.”

The critical question for Trump is whether the jobs that might be lost in a trade war in the parts of the country that supported him would be offset by jobs gained if the United States ramps up its manufacturing industry. For now, that outcome is highly uncertain.

Sources: Brookings and Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections

Note: To compensate for gaps in the way the U.S. reports export data, Brookings’ methodology matches the proportion of value that a particular region contributes to a national industry to the same percentage of value in national exports of that industry. If Detroit accounts for 5 percent of national value-added in automotive parts manufacturing, for example, then it is assigned 5 percent of national automotive parts exports.

More coverage