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Does Inflation 'Grease the Wheels of the Labor Market'?

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  • David Card
  • Dean Hyslop

Abstract

If nominal wages are downward rigid, moderate levels of inflation may improve labor market efficiency by facilitating real wage cuts. In this paper we attempt to test the hypothesis that downward real wage changes occur more readily in higher-inflation environments. Using individual wage change data from two sources, we find that about 6-10 percent of workers experience nominally rigid wages in a 10- percent inflation environment. This proportion rises to over 15 percent at a 5 percent inflation rate. We use the assumption of symmetry to generate counterfactual distributions of real wage changes in the absence of rigidities. These counterfactual distributions suggest that a 1 percent increase in the inflation rate reduces the fraction of workers with downward-rigid wages by about 0.8 percent, and allows real wages to fall about 0.06 percent faster. A market- level analysis of the effects of nominal rigidities, based on wage growth and unemployment at the state level, is less conclusive. We find only a weak statistical relationship between the rate of inflation and the pace of relative wage adjustments across local labor markets.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section. in its series Working Papers with number 735.

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Date of creation: Dec 1995
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Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:dsp011j92g745w

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Keywords: wage rigidity; inflation; flexibility;

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References

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  1. Robert J. Shiller, 1997. "Why Do People Dislike Inflation?," NBER Chapters, in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 13-70 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Kahn, Shulamit, 1997. "Evidence of Nominal Wage Stickiness from Microdata," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 993-1008, December.
  3. Gary Solon & Robert Barsky & Jonathan A. Parker, 1992. "Measuring the Cyclicality of Real Wages: How Important is Composition Bias," NBER Working Papers 4202, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. repec:fth:prinin:343 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. David Card, 1995. "The Wage Curve: A Review," Working Papers 722, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  6. Blanchflower, D. & Oswald, A., 1989. "The Wage Curve," Papers 340, London School of Economics - Centre for Labour Economics.
  7. David E. Lebow & David J. Stockton & William L. Wascher, 1995. "Inflation, nominal wage rigidity, and the efficiency of labor markets," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 95-45, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  8. Card, David, 1996. "The Effect of Unions on the Structure of Wages: A Longitudinal Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(4), pages 957-79, July.
  9. Krueger, Alan B & Summers, Lawrence H, 1988. "Efficiency Wages and the Inter-industry Wage Structure," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 259-93, March.
  10. Brown, James N & Light, Audrey, 1992. "Interpreting Panel Data on Job Tenure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(3), pages 219-57, July.
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