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Decomposing Wage Inequality Change Using General Equilibrium Models

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  • Lisandro Abrego
  • John Whalley

Abstract

This paper presents ex post decomposition analysis of wage inequality change using multi-sector general equilibrium models. The analytical structure used is a specific- factors model of trade, which we calibrate to UK data for the two years 1979 and 1975. We first calibrate our general equilibrium trade model to observations on wage inequality, trade, production and consumption spanning these years, capturing the separate influences of trade, technology and demographics on inequality. Between these years wage inequality changed, but multiple changes in exogenous variables occurred (world prices, technology, endowments). We use calibration techniques to determine parameter values consistent with both the equilibria and the changes in exogenous variables contributing to the wage inequality change being decomposed. We then compute counterfactual equilibria in which only some of the changes in exogenous variables are present to allow us to assess what portion of the observed change is attributable to the various contributing factors. Our findings are that the roles of trade and factor-biased technological change are relatively larger than in earlier literature. We also find that changes in factor endowments to offset increased inequality generated by trade and skilled-biased technological changes, a feature that seems to have gone relatively unnoticed in earlier literature.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9184.

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Date of creation: Sep 2002
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9184

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  1. Krugman, Paul R., 2000. "Technology, trade and factor prices," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 51-71, February.
  2. Lisandro Abrego & John Whalley, 1999. "The Choice of Structural Model in Trade-Wages Decompositions," CSGR Working papers series 34/99, Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation (CSGR), University of Warwick.
  3. Francois, Joseph F & Nelson, Douglas, 1998. "Trade, Technology, and Wages: General Equilibrium Mechanics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(450), pages 1483-99, September.
  4. Nicole M. Fortin & Thomas Lemieux, 1997. "Institutional Changes and Rising Wage Inequality: Is There a Linkage?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 75-96, Spring.
  5. Stephen Machin & John Van Reenen, 1998. "Technology and changes in skill structure: evidence from seven OECD countries," IFS Working Papers W98/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  6. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Howard J. Shatz, 1994. "Trade and Jobs in Manufacturing," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(1), pages 1-84.
  7. R. E. Baldwin & G. G. Cain, . "Shifts in U.S. Relative Wages: The Role of Trade, Technology, and Factor Endowments," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1132-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  8. Feenstra, Robert C & Hanson, Gordon H, 1996. "Globalization, Outsourcing, and Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 240-45, May.
  9. Mussa, Michael, 1974. "Tariffs and the Distribution of Income: The Importance of Factor Specificity, Substitutability, and Intensity in the Short and Long Run," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1191-1203, Nov.-Dec..
  10. 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.
  11. repec:sae:niesru:v:166:y::i:1:p:78-86 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Dawkins, Christina & Srinivasan, T.N. & Whalley, John, 2001. "Calibration," Handbook of Econometrics, in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 58, pages 3653-3703 Elsevier.
  13. Jonathan E. Haskel & Matthew J. Slaughter, 1998. "Does the Sector Bias of Skill-Biased Technical Change Explain Changing Wage Inequality?," NBER Working Papers 6565, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Haskel, Jonathan & Slaughter, Matthew J, 2001. "Trade, Technology and U.K. Wage Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(468), pages 163-87, January.
  15. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
  16. David Card, 1998. "Falling Union Membership and Rising Wage Inequality: What's the Connection?," NBER Working Papers 6520, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Shoven,John B. & Whalley,John, 1992. "Applying General Equilibrium," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521266550, April.
  18. Gary Burtless, 1995. "International Trade and the Rise in Earnings Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(2), pages 800-816, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Hui Huang & John Whalley, 2003. "The Use of Literature Based Elasticity Estimates in Calibrated Models of Trade-Wage Decompositions: A Calibmetric Approach," NBER Working Papers 10137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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