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Comparing Real Wage Rates: Presidential Address

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  • Orley Ashenfelter

Abstract

A real wage rate is a nominal wage rate divided by the price of a good and is a transparent measure of how much of the good an hour of work buys. It provides an important indicator of the living standards of workers, and also of the productivity of workers. In this paper I set out the conceptual basis for such measures, provide some historical examples, and then provide my own preliminary analysis of a decade long project designed to measure the wages of workers doing the same job in over 60 countries--workers at McDonald's restaurants. The results demonstrate that the wage rates of workers using the same skills and doing the same jobs differ by as much as 10 to 1, and that these gaps declined over the period 2000-2007, but with much less progress since the Great Recession. (JEL C81, C82, D24, J31, N30, O57)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 102 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 617-42

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:2:p:617-42

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  1. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker Than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116, February.
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  4. Albert Rees, 1961. "Real Wages in Manufacturing, 1890-1914," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number rees61-1, octubre-d.
  5. Rosenzweig, Mark R., 2010. "Global Wage Inequality and the International Flow of Migrants," Working Papers 77, Yale University, Department of Economics.
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  7. Prescott, Edward C, 1998. "Needed: A Theory of Total Factor Productivity," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(3), pages 525-51, August.
  8. Michael Abbott & Orley Ashenfelter, 1974. "Labor Supply, Commodity Demand, and the Allocation of Time," Working Papers 437, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  9. Richard B. Freeman & Remco Oostendorp, 2000. "Wages Around the World: Pay Across Occupations and Countries," NBER Working Papers 8058, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "How Prosperous were the Romans? Evidence from Diocletian`s Price Edict (301 AD)," Economics Series Working Papers 363, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  11. Kenneth Rogoff, 1996. "The Purchasing Power Parity Puzzle," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 647-668, June.
  12. Bela Balassa, 1964. "The Purchasing-Power Parity Doctrine: A Reappraisal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 72, pages 584.
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Cited by:
  1. Michael A. Clemens, 2013. "Why Do Programmers Earn More in Houston Than Hyderabad? Evidence from Randomized Processing of US Visas," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 198-202, May.

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