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Posted 12.12.11

Susan Helper, PhD, Frank Tracy Carlton Professor of Economics, knows all about cars. Not how they run so much as how (and why, and where) they’re made: Dr. Helper has studied the auto industry for two decades.

There is an “old Irish curse” that supposedly runs, “May you live in interesting times.” The last few years have been a very interesting time to study the auto industry in the U.S., which all but collapsed in 2008, with two of Detroit’s Big Three manufacturers taking government bailouts in 2009. Since 2008, there has been a 40% decline in automobile production in the U.S. That affects not only car manufacturing, but the automotive supply chain right down the line. Suppliers of parts, glass, paint, and countless other car components suffer right along with the big names of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.

“We know there have been layoffs in the aftermath of the automotive crisis, and we know there have been bankruptcies,” Helper says. What has happened to those laid-off workers and what has sprung up to replace those shuttered firms is what Helper’s current research is trying to determine.

Learn about what it takes to check the vital signs of a whole industry in the next issue of The Weatherhead Collection: Reveal, hitting your mailbox in the next few weeks!

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