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In the competition between American states for economic development, about half of American states offer lower levels of labor rights in the form of “right-to-work” (RTW) laws. RTW states often tout their advantages in competing for foreign investment, but do foreign companies really want weaker labor regulation? Many foreign firms locate production in the United States not to lower labor costs but for other reasons, such as proximity to consumers or to employ highly skilled workers, implying that differences across labor regulations within rich countries may be declining in importance. In this article, we investigate the relationship between RTW laws and greenfield foreign direct investments. In particular, we explore recent RTW changes across two states, Indiana and Michigan, controlling for national trends in foreign investment. Adopting RTW increases foreign investment in manufacturing in both states, but Michigan's RTW law is associated with gains in service-sector projects even while Indiana's is not. While RTW may attract more manufacturing, it is not enough to generate broad-based gains across the economy.
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