This study adjudicates between two competing perspectives regarding the importance of manufacturing employment for economic growth with the onset of the most recent round of economic globalization. Established economic theories link shifts toward industrial activities to higher growth due to increases in aggregate productivity. While some scholars argue that the global restructuring of manufacturing in the era of globalization presents novel opportunities for development in the South, others suggest that the importance of manufacturing employment for economic growth in less developed countries declines during this period as competitive pressures increase and barriers to entry decline. I use difference models and a broad sample of both developed and less developed countries in the time period 1970–2010 to examine the effects of manufacturing share of employment on economic growth and how these effects have changed over time. First, I find that manufacturing employment has strong positive effects on economic growth net of neoclassical controls for all countries. Second, I find that for less developed countries, the importance of manufacturing share of employment for growth has declined through the course of the time period studied, particularly after 1990. In contrast, my results do not show a similar decline for developed countries. These findings are robust across alternative estimation strategies. I conclude by considering the theoretical implications of these results.


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pp. 909-940
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