It Offshoring and American Labor

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IT Offshoring and American Labor
William Aspray American Behavioral Scientist 2010 53: 962 DOI: 10.1177/0002764209356232 The online version of this article can be found at: http://abs.sagepub.com/content/53/7/962

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Articles

IT Offshoring and American Labor
William Aspray1

American Behavioral Scientist 53(7) 962–982 © 2010 SAGE Publications Reprints and permission: http://www. sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0002764209356232 http://abs.sagepub.com

Abstract This article presents an overview of the offshoring of information technology (IT), especially software and IT-enabled services, and its impacts on American labor. Topics include the history of offshoring politics in the United States, differences in attitudes between politicians and economists in their attitudes about the severity of the offshoring “problem,” national differences in types of offshoring providers, technological and other drivers of offshoring, reasons to offshore, characteristics of work amenable to offshoring, the employment impact in the United States, political and educational responses to offshoring in the United States, and the roles of labor unions and big business. Keywords offshoring, information technology, educational responses, political responses, labor This article addresses the offshoring of information technology (IT), especially software and IT-enabled services, from the United States over the past quarter century and the impacts it has had on American labor. The United States offshores more IT work than any other country, followed by the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany. The findings here are drawn in large part from an international study of offshoring carried out by the Association for Computing Machinery, for which the author was the executive consultant and coeditor (Aspray, Mayadas, & Vardi, 2006). This article also draws on a rapidly growing literature on this subject that now numbers in the thousands (see, e.g., Arora & Gambardella, 2006; Aspray et al., 2006, bibliography; Atkinson, 2004; Bardhan, Jaffee, & Kroll, 2004; Carmel & Tjia, 2006; Dossani, 2007; Ferrell, 2006; Friedman, 2005; Hira & Hira, 2005; Koehler & Hagigh, 2004; Vashistha & Vashistha, 2006). Offshoring is the term most commonly used in the United States in connection with the outsourcing of IT work. It is a fitting term for the United States, which typically 1

University of Texas at Austin

Corresponding Author: William Aspray, University of Texas at Austin, 1616 Guadalupe St., D8600, Austin TX 78701 Email: bill@ischool.utexas.edu

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Aspray

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reaches across water—for example, to India or China—when it sends software or ITenabled service work to an outsourcing provider in another country. Contrast this to Germany, for example, which typically would send this kind of work to an Eastern European country such as the Czech Republic, where no crossing of a shoreline is involved. When an American company outsources IT work, the provider company is most often located in the United States. But since the mid-1980s, and with increasing rapidity since the late 1990s, American companies have outsourced their work to providers outside the United States. This offshoring movement began in the mid-1980s with contracted programming services, typically...
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