Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Where Did the Productivity Growth Go? Inflation Dynamics and the Distribution of Income

Contents:

Author Info

  • Ian Dew-Becker
  • Robert J. Gordon

Abstract

A basic tenet of economic science is that productivity growth is the source of growth in real income per capita. But our results raise doubts by creating a direct link between macro productivity growth and the micro evolution of the income distribution. We show that over the entire period 1966-2001, as well as over 1997-2001, only the top 10 percent of the income distribution enjoyed a growth rate of real wage and salary income equal to or above the average rate of economy-wide productivity growth. Growth in median real wage and salary income barely grew at all while average wage and salary income kept pace with productivity growth, because half of the income gains went to the top 10 percent of the income distribution, leaving little left over for the bottom 90 percent. Half of this inequality effect is attributable to gains of the 90th percentile over the 10th percentile; the other half is due to increased skewness within the top 10 percent. In addition to its micro analysis, this paper also asks whether faster productivity growth reduces inflation, raises nominal wage growth, or raises profits. We find that an acceleration or deceleration of the productivity growth trend alters the inflation rate by at least one-for-one in the opposite direction. This paper revives research on wage adjustment and produces a dynamic interactive model of price and wage adjustment that explains movements of labor's share of income. What caused rising income inequality? Economists have placed too much emphasis on "skill-biased technical change" and too little attention to the sources of increased skewness at the very top, within the top 1 percent of the income distribution. We distinguish two complementary explanations, the "economics of superstars," i.e., the pure rents earned by sports and entertainment stars, and the escalating compensation premia of CEOs and other top corporate officers. These sources of divergence at the top, combined with the role of deunionization, immigration, and free trade in pushing down incomes at the bottom, have led to the wide divergence between the growth rates of productivity, average compensation, and median compensation.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11842.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11842.

as in new window
Length:
Date of creation: Dec 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Dew-Becker, Ian and Robert J. Gordon. "Where Did The Productivity Growth Go? Inflation Dynamics And The Distribution Of Income," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 2005, v2005(2), 67-150.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11842

Note: EFG LS
Contact details of provider:
Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Email:
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords:

Other versions of this item:

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Galí, Jordi & Gertler, Mark & López-Salido, J David, 2001. "European Inflation Dynamics," CEPR Discussion Papers 2684, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. 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.
  3. Goldin, Claudia & Margo, Robert A, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34, February.
  4. Lucian Bebchuk & Yaniv Grinstein, 2005. "The Growth of Executive Pay," NBER Working Papers 11443, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Laurence Ball & Robert Moffitt, 2001. "Productivity Growth and the Phillips Curve," Economics Working Paper Archive 450, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  6. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1996. "Asymptotically Median Unbiased Estimation of Coefficient Variance in a Time Varying Parameter Model," NBER Technical Working Papers 0201, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Daron Acemoglu, 2003. "Cross-Country Inequality Trends," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages F121-F149, February.
  8. Andrew Atkeson & Lee E. Ohanian., 2001. "Are Phillips curves useful for forecasting inflation?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-11.
  9. 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.
  10. Jordi Galí & Mark Gertler, 1998. "Inflation dynamics: A structural econometric analysis," Economics Working Papers 341, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  11. James R. Spletzer & Katharine G. Abraham & Jay C. Stewart, 1999. "Why Do Different Wage Series Tell Different Stories?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 34-39, May.
  12. Robert J. Gordon, 1975. "Alternative Responses of Policy to External Supply Shocks," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 6(1), pages 183-206.
  13. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-58, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page.

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11842. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.