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Decomposing Wage Inequality Change Using General Equilibrium Models

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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 two years, 1979 and 1995. 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 role factor-biased technological change is larger than in earlier literature. We also find 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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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute in its series University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute Working Papers with number 20022.

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Date of creation: 2002
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Handle: RePEc:uwo:epuwoc:20022

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Postal: Economic Policy Research Institute, Social Science Centre, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C2
Phone: 519-661-2111 Ext.85244
Web page: http://economics.uwo.ca/research/research_papers/epri_workingpapers.html

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  1. Abrego, Lisandro & Whalley, John, 2000. "The Choice of Structural Model in Trade-Wages Decompositions," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 8(3), pages 462-77, August.
  2. Joseph F. Francois & Douglas Nelson, 1998. "Trade, Technology, and Wages: General Equilibrium Mechanics," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 98-058/2, Tinbergen Institute.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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..
  6. Baldwin, Robert E & Cain, Glen C, 1997. "Shifts in US Relative Wages: The Role of Trade, Technology and Factor Endowments," CEPR Discussion Papers 1596, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Shoven,John B. & Whalley,John, 1992. "Applying General Equilibrium," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521266550, October.
  8. Bob Anderton & Paul Brenton, 1998. "The dollar, trade, technology and inequality in the USA," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 166(1), pages 78-86, October.
  9. 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.
  10. David Card, 1998. "Falling Union Membership and Rising Wage Inequality: What's the Connection?," NBER Working Papers 6520, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Stephen Machin & John Van Reenen, 1998. "Technology And Changes In Skill Structure: Evidence From Seven Oecd Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1215-1244, November.
  14. Krugman, Paul R., 2000. "Technology, trade and factor prices," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 51-71, February.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 1996. "Globalization, Outsourcing, and Wage Inequality," NBER Working Papers 5424, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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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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