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Justice, Fairness, Inclusion, and Performance.

06 09

Off-Shoring: An Elusive Phenomenon

This is the first of several reports by an Academy Panel formed to assess off-shoring, including the adequacy of current data and their usefulness in ascertaining its extent and economic effects.

Off-shoring business operations is a difficult, elusive and exceedingly complex phenomenon. It produces myriad and widespread economic impacts, with U.S. employment and workers’ earnings being among the most sensitive. Concerns about off-shoring are not new. For decades they have been central to the debate over the benefits and costs of economic growth and trade expansion.

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Key Findings

The Panel finds that the use of multiple terms to describe off-shoring has hindered a meaningful understanding of this phenomenon.


The Panel recommends simplifying the discussion by focusing on three basic terms: “outsourcing,” “off-shoring” and “off-shore outsourcing.” It also recommends a broad definition for off-shoring to avoid the pitfalls of narrow definitions that create ambiguity over particular activities stemming from artificial distinctions or changes over time.

Study Fellows