Low-Skilled Liberalizers: Support for Free Trade in Africa

Lindsay R. Dolan, Helen V. Milner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite populist backlash against globalization in advanced industrialized countries, developing countries have recently sought to liberalize trade. To shed light on this phenomenon, we investigate mass attitudes toward free trade in thirty-six African countries. Using two rounds of Afrobarometer data and original survey data from Ghana and Uganda, we find that individuals hold views that are consistent with their economic self-interest. As factor endowment models predict for a sample of skill-scarce countries, low-skilled individuals are more likely than high-skilled individuals to support free trade. Moreover, the strongest negative effects of skill occur for the most skill-scarce countries in the sample and are driven by individuals in the labor force. Our results are robust to measuring variables more precisely in original surveys and controlling for other factors thought to shape attitudes. The findings indicate that previous evidence against factor endowment models may have partially resulted from inadequate data from the developing world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)848-870
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Organization
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 7 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law


  • Africa
  • Globalization
  • factor endowment models
  • surveys
  • trade


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