Effects of Globalization

How It Impacts Society and the Economy

This illustration shows the globalization and its impact on economic growth.

The Balance

Globalization refers to the increasingly integrated nature of economies around the world. This integration has both positive and negative effects.

The hope is that increased global trade will lead to more competition, which will spread wealth more equally. Those who are in favor also claim that trade across borders will help limit military conflicts. However, there are downsides to boosting trade between countries. Some critics point to globalization as a factor in rising nationalism and income inequality, among other issues.

Learn more about the pros and cons of globalization to understand how it affects economies and individuals.

Key Takeaways

  • The benefits of globalization for countries include foreign direct investment and technological innovation.
  • For companies, globalization allows for more efficient operations through economies of scale.
  • The downsides of globalization include potential issues with interdependence and loss of sovereignty.

Positive Effects of Globalization

The Milken Institute's "Globalization of the World Economy" report of 2003 noted many of the pros and cons of globalization. Although nearly two decades have passed since the report came out, the ideas behind it remain relevant.

Some of the pros of increased global trade include:

Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign direct investment (FDI) tends to grow at a much greater rate than world trade does. This can help to boost technology transfer, industrial restructuring, and the growth of global companies.

Technological Innovation

Increased competition helps inspire new technology development. The growth in FDI helps improve economic output by making processes more efficient.

Economies of Scale

Increased global trade enables large companies to realize economies of scale. This reduces costs and prices, which in turn supports further growth. However, this can hurt many small businesses trying to compete at home.

Negative Effects of Globalization

Some of the risks of increased global trade include:


Interdependence between nations can cause local or global instability. This occurs if local economic fluctuations end up impacting a large number of countries relying on them. For example, in 2020, Ukraine was the fifth larger exporter of wheat. When Russia invaded the country, it threatened food supply chains for countries like Pakistan, Lebanon, and Vietnam that import Ukrainian wheat.

National Sovereignty

Some see the rise of nation-states, global firms, and other international organizations as a threat to sovereignty. Ultimately, this could cause some leaders to become nationalistic.

Two prominent examples of the rise of nationalism as a pushback to globalism include the 2016 election of Donald Trump in the U.S. and the British vote to leave the European Union (known as  "Brexit"). These events contributed to the anti-globalization movement and stoked anti-immigration sentiments.

Equity Distribution

The pros of globalization can be unfairly skewed toward rich nations or individuals, creating greater economic inequalities. For example, in the wake of NAFTA, the average net weekly pay for maquila workers was $55.77 in 1998—less than $2 more than the average cost for basic needs in the maquiladora trade zone.

Dani Rodrik, author of Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy, argues for a rebalancing of globalization.

In a 2017 piece for the Milken Institute Review, Rodrik notes that current policies "produce[s] losers as well as winners." For instance, workers are left with a less stable labor market. In Europe, these workers were given a strong social safety net. The U.S., Rodrik says, "let the chips (and workers) fall where they may."

To fix globalization's problems while keeping benefits, Rodrik suggests several changes. Chief among them: giving labor a stronger voice, shifting from global governance to national governance, and focusing attention on where the biggest economic gains can be made.

Protectionism Through Tariffs

The 2008 economic crisis led many politicians to question the merits of globalization. In 2007, worldwide capital inflows accounted for more than 20% of the world's GDP. By 2019, this figure fell to less than 5%.

The U.S. and Europe introduced new banking regulations that limited capital flows. Many countries put in place tariffs to protect vital industries at home. In the 1990s, the U.S. placed a 127% tariff on Chinese paper clips. And Japan has levied tariffs on imported rice as high as 778%.

Future Outlook

Some economists suggest that businesses are not investing across borders to build capital infrastructure. They argue that companies seek countries with low taxes. Some form of globalization may be inevitable in the long run, but the historic bumps spurred by economic crises suggest that change is the only constant.

Revenues from U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports increased from $32.9 billion in 2017 to $85 billion in 2021. American farmers hurt by China moving crop purchases to other countries were promised $28 billion in federal compensation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When did globalization begin?

Economists differ on when globalization began. Some point to people like Christopher Columbus as an early force of globalization in the 15th century. Others point back thousands of years to the founding of the Silk Road. Both the World Economic Forum and the National Bureau of Economic Research argue that the technological advancements of the 19th century allowed it to become the first true era of globalization.

Which countries are the least affected by globalization?

Some countries rely more or less on global trade than others. The KOF Swiss Economic Institute scores countries on a globalization index. Afghanistan and Somalia were among the lowest-scoring countries on that index. More isolated countries, like North Korea, didn't score on the index at all.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Milken Institute. "Globalization of the World Economy," Pages 2-9.

  2. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. "Foreign Direct Investment for Development," Page 5.

  3. Milken Institute. "Globalization of the World Economy," Page 9.

  4. Milken Institute. "Globalization of the World Economy," Page 10.

  5. Milken Institute. "Globalization of the World Economy," Page 12.

  6. Observatory of Economic Complexity. "Wheat in Ukraine."

  7. Homeland Security Digital Library. "Globalization vs. National Sovereignty."

  8. The World Bank. "Theorist Eric Maskin: Globalization Is Increasing Inequality."

  9. Washington University in St. Louis. "The Pros and Cons of Globalization," Page 3.

  10. Milken Institute Review. "The Trouble With Globalization," Page 2.

  11. Bank for International Settlements. "Changing Patterns of Capital Flows," Page 4.

  12. Federal Register. "Certain Paper Clips From the People's Republic of China: Final Results of Expedited Fourth Sunset Review of Antidumping Duty Order."

  13. Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asian and Pacific Region. "Trade Liberalization and Rice Farming in Japan and Heilongjiang China."

  14. Center for Strategic and International Studies. "China Tariffs: Digging Out of the Hole."

  15. American Enterprise Institution. "Agricultural Trade Aid," Page 1.

  16. World Economic Forum. "A Brief History of Globalization."

  17. National Bureau of Economic Research. "When Did Globalization Begin?," Pages 1-2, 26-28.

  18. KOF Swiss Economic Institute. "KOF Globalisation Index," Download "Ranking_2021" XLSX.

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