University of Michigan researchers have found that American consumers place a much higher value on apparel produced entirely in the United States and made with U.S. raw materials. MU experts fear that the prioritization of “Made in the USA” is so high, it could be damaging to U.S. apparel manufacturing businesses, American job growth and today’s globalized economy.
In a study published in Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, Jung Ha-Brookshire, an assistant professor in the textile and apparel management department at MU’s College of Human Environmental Sciences, surveyed American consumers to determine the value they place on apparel produced in various countries. The study participants valued a $40 cotton shirt that was made in China at $57 when told it was made in the U.S. with U.S. cotton.
“Americans tend to severely overvalue apparel produced entirely in the U.S.,” said Ha-Brookshire. “This is concerning because if Americans place higher value on these U.S. products, they perceive those products to be too expensive and are less likely to buy them, opting instead to buy similar Chinese-made products perceived to be more in their price range.”
One positive finding of the study is that American consumers place value on apparel made with U.S. cotton, even if the finished products are manufactured overseas. U.S. cotton growers can utilize this information by better indicating what apparel is manufactured from their raw materials.
“Currently, retailers are only required to indicate where the apparel was manufactured or sewn, but if consumers could see that apparel produced in China was made with U.S. cotton, they would probably be more likely to purchase it,” said Ha-Brookshire.
Ha-Brookshire’s study will be presented in November at the Textile Product Labeling Summit at the University of Missouri.