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Changes in the Distribution of Wages, 1940-1950: The Public vs. the Private Sector

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  • Robert A. Margo
  • T. Aldrich Finegan

Abstract

Between 1940 and 1950 wage differentials within and between labor market groups narrowed significantly - the so-called 'Great Compression'. This paper disaggregates the Great Compression into its public and private components. Wage compression in the public sector, along with a decline in the pay premia received by public sector workers, explains about 40 percent of aggregate wage compression in the 1940s. The experience of the 1940s stands in stark contrast with that of the past two decades, in which a rigid public sector wage structure has dampened increases in aggregate wage inequality.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5389.

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Date of creation: Dec 1995
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Publication status: published as Margo, Robert A. and T. Aldrich Finegan. "The Great Compression Of The 1940s: The Public Versus The Private Sector," Explorations in Economic History, 2002, v39(2,Apr), 183-203.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5389

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  1. Mary Benedict & Kathryn Shaw, 1995. "The impact of pension benefits on the distribution of earned income," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(4), pages 740-757, July.
  2. Steven F. Venti, 1987. "Wages in the Federal and Private Sectors," NBER Chapters, in: Public Sector Payrolls, pages 147-182 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. repec:fth:prinin:282 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1991. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid- Century," NBER Working Papers 3817, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Katz, L.F. & Krueger, A.B., 1991. "Chances In The Structure Of Wages In The Public And Private Sectors," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1547, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  6. Alan B. Krueger, 1988. "The determinants of queues for federal jobs," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 41(4), pages 567-581, July.
  7. Finegan, T. Aldrich & Margo, Robert A., 1994. "Work Relief and the Labor Force Participation of Married Women in 1940," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(01), pages 64-84, March.
  8. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
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