Aug 18, 2011

"Made in China" accounted for only 2.7% of U.S. Consumer Product Spending and services from China accounted for only 2.7% of U.S. personal consumption expenditures in 2010, of which less than half reflected the actual costs of Chinese imports. The rest went to U.S. businesses and workers transporting, selling, and marketing goods carrying the "Made in China" label. Although the fraction is higher when the imported content of goods made in the United States is considered, Chinese imports still make up only a small share of total U.S. consumer spending. This suggests that Chinese inflation will have little direct effect on U.S. consumer prices.
The United States is running a record trade deficit with China. This is no surprise, given the wide array of items in stores labeled “Made in China.” This Economic Letter examines what fraction of U.S. consumer spending goes for Chinese goods and what part of that fraction reflects the actual cost of imports from China. We perform a similar exercise to determine the foreign and domestic content of all U.S. imports...
Share of spending on “Made in China”
Although globalization is widely recognized these days, the U.S. economy actually remains relatively closed. The vast majority of goods and services sold in the United States is produced here. In 2010, imports were about 16% of U.S. GDP. Imports from China amounted to 2.5% of GDP.
Table 1
Import content of U.S. personal consumption expenditures by category
Import content of U.S. personal consumption expenditures by category
Table 1 shows our calculations of the import content of U.S. household consumption of goods and services. A total of 88.5% of U.S. consumer spending is on items made in the United States. This is largely because services, which make up about two-thirds of spending, are mainly produced locally. The market share of foreign goods is highest in durables, which include cars and electronics. Two-thirds of U.S. durables consumption goes for goods labeled “Made in the USA,” while the other third goes for goods made abroad.
...However, it does not seem that so far Chinese exporters are fully passing through their domestic inflation. In May 2011, prices of Chinese imports only increased 2.8% from May 2010. This is partly because a large share of Chinese production costs consists of imports from other countries. Xing and Detert (2010) demonstrate this by examining the production costs of an iPhone. In 2009, it cost about $179 in China to produce an iPhone, which sold in the United States for about $500. Thus, $179 of the U.S. retail cost consisted of Chinese imported content. Geography of U.S. PCE, 2010However, only $6.50 was actually due to assembly costs in China. The other $172.50 reflected costs of parts produced in other countries, including $10.75 for parts made in the United States.
Figure 2 shows the share of U.S. PCE based on where goods were produced, taking into account intermediate goods production, and the domestic and foreign content of imports. Of the 2.7% of U.S. consumer purchases going to goods labeled “Made in China,” only 1.2% actually represents China-produced content. If we take into account imported intermediate goods, about 13.9% of U.S. consumer spending is attributable to imports, including 1.9% imported from China.
Read more from The U.S. Content of “Made in China”