This paper proposes a new mechanism linking trade and wage inequality in developing countries — the quality-upgrading mechanism — and investigates its empirical implications in panel data on Mexican manufacturing plants. In a model with heterogeneous plants and quality-differentiated goods, only the most productive plants in a country like Mexico enter the export market, they produce higher-quality goods to appeal to richer Northern consumers, and they pay high wages to attract and motivate a high-quality workforce. An exchange-rate devaluation leads initially more-productive, higher-wage plants to increase exports, upgrade quality, and raise wages relative to initially less-productive, lower-wage plants within each industry. Using the late-1994 peso crisis as a source of variation and a variety of proxies for plant productivity, I find that initially more-productive plants increased the export share of sales, white-collar wages, blue-collar wages, the relative wage of whitecollar workers, and ISO 9000 certification more than initially less-productive plants during the peso crisis period, and that these differential changes were greater than in periods without devaluations before and after the crisis period. A factor-analytic strategy tha
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