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Changes in Wage Inequality

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  • Stephen Machin
  • John Van Reenen

Abstract

We examine trends in wage inequality in the US and other countries over the past four decades. We show that there has been a secular increase in the 90-50 wage differential in the US and the UK since the late 1970s. By contrast the 50-10 differential rose mainly in the 1980s and flattened or fell in the 1990s and 2000s. We analyze the reasons for these trends and conclude that a version of the skill biased technical change hypothesis combined with institutional changes (the decline in the minimum wage and trade unions) continues to offer the best explanation for the observed patterns of change.

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File URL: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/special/cepsp18.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Special Papers with number 18.

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Date of creation: Apr 2007
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepsps:18

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Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEPSP

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Keywords: Wage inequality; institutions; technology; trade;

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References

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  1. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," NBER Working Papers 5956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Increasing Residual Wage Inequality: Composition Effects, Noisy Data, or Rising Demand for Skill?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 461-498, June.
  3. Machin, S. & Van Reenen, J., 1997. "Technology and Changes in Skill Structure: Evidence from Seven OECD Countries," Papers 24, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  4. Nidardo, J. & Fortin, N. & Lemieux, T., 1994. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Papers 93-94-15, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  5. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
  6. Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 7800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Van Reenen, John & Caroli, Eve, 2001. "Skill-Biased Organizational Change? Evidence from a panel of British and French establishments," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/10093, Paris Dauphine University.
  8. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2006. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(2), pages 699-746, May.
  9. Richard B. Freeman, 1978. "Unionism and the Dispersion of Wages," NBER Working Papers 0248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1993. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing Industries: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 4255, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Jean-Marc Burniaux & Flavio Padrini & Nicola Brandt, 2006. "Labour Market Performance, Income Inequality and Poverty in OECD countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 500, OECD Publishing.
  13. Bound, John & Johnson, George, 1992. "Changes in the Structure of Wages in the 1980's: An Evaluation of Alternative Explanations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 371-92, June.
  14. Alan B. Krueger, 1991. "How Computers Have Changed the Wage Structure: Evidence From Microdata, 1984-1989," NBER Working Papers 3858, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Nickell, Stephen & Bell, Brian, 1995. "The Collapse in Demand for the Unskilled and Unemployment across the OECD," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 40-62, Spring.
  16. Dickens, Richard & Machin, Stephen & Manning, Alan, 1999. "The Effects of Minimum Wages on Employment: Theory and Evidence from Britain," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(1), pages 1-22, January.
  17. Doms, Mark & Dunne, Timothy & Troske, Kenneth R, 1997. "Workers, Wages, and Technology," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 253-90, February.
  18. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2005. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Re-Assessing the Revisionists," NBER Working Papers 11627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. DiNardo, John E & Pischke, Jorn-Steffen, 1997. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 291-303, February.
  20. Olivier Blanchard, 2004. "The Economic Future of Europe," NBER Working Papers 10310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin M. Murphy, 1991. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," NBER Working Papers 3927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Machin, Stephen, 1996. "Wage Inequality in the UK," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 47-64, Spring.
  23. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Griliches, Zvi, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-97, May.
  24. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 1999. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Desjonqueres, Thibaut & Machin, Stephen & Van Reenen, John, 1999. " Another Nail in the Coffin? Or Can the Trade Based Explanation of Changing Skill Structures Be Resurrected?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 101(4), pages 533-54, December.
  26. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Michel Dumont, 2008. "Working Paper 22-08 - Wages and employment by level of education and occupation in Belgium," Working Papers 0822, Federal Planning Bureau, Belgium.
  2. Rebekka Christopoulou & Theodora Kosma, 2009. "Skills and wage inequality in Greece: evidence from matched employer-employee data, 1995-2002," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 24198, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Giovanni Pica & José V. Rodríguez Mora, 2007. "Who’s Afraid of a Globalized World? Foreign Direct Investments, Local Knowledge and Allocation of Talents," CSEF Working Papers 184, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy, revised 05 Oct 2009.
  4. Eric Smith, 2009. "Sector-specific human capital and the distribution of earnings," Working Paper 2009-21, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  5. Green, Francis & Machin, Stephen & Murphy, Richard & Zhu, Yu, 2010. "The Changing Economic Advantage from Private School," IZA Discussion Papers 5018, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Isabel Ortiz & Matthew Cummins, 2011. "Global Inequality: Beyond the Bottom Billion – A Rapid Review of Income Distribution in 141 Countries," Working papers 1105, UNICEF,Division of Policy and Strategy.
  7. Bloom, Nicholas & Garicano, Luis & Sadun, Raffaella & Van Reenen, John, 2013. "The distinct effects of Information Technology and Communication Technology on firm organization," CEPR Discussion Papers 9762, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. repec:ese:iserwp:2012-17 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Antonczyk, Dirk & DeLeire, Thomas & Fitzenberger, Bernd, 2010. "Polarization and rising wage inequality: comparing the U.S. and Germany," ZEW Discussion Papers 10-015, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  10. Rienzo, Cinzia, 2008. "Residual Wage Inequality and Immigration in the UK and the US," MPRA Paper 30279, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Mar 2011.

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