Last week, I begged to differ with a guy claiming that manufacturing was indeed special because people earned a wage premium simply by entering the sector, or as he put it, that there were "labor market rents" associated with getting a manufacturing job.
Turns out Christina Romer has my back!
She points out that (a) on the low skill end, manufacturing pay premia have shrunk and likely will continue to shrink, and (b) increased technical sophistication in manufacturing has created more jobs that require higher skills. She points out that the number of manufacturing workers with some college education has more than doubled. Thus, subsidizing manufacturing is NOT likely to reduce income inequality in the US.
Romer attributes the shrinking premium to low skill workers to increased international competition, while I attributed it to both that factor and the decline of union strength. She doesn't point out that there is an upside to increased international competition, namely lower priced goods for American consumers.