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The distribution of income between labor and capital is not stable: But why is that so and why does it matter?

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  • Brada, Josef C.

Abstract

I review the literature on labor's share of national income in developed and developing countries. These shares have varied systematically over the post-World War II period, rising until the late 1970s and then falling until now. Explanations for the decline in labor's share include technical progress, globalization and a decline in labor's bargaining power, but none of these explanations can account for both the rise and the decline of labor shares over time and for the similar pattern in developed and developing countries. However, movements in oil prices can account for these movements if energy is included in the production function. Such an explanation has broad implications for income distribution, energy conservation and for the modern theory of growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Brada, Josef C., 2013. "The distribution of income between labor and capital is not stable: But why is that so and why does it matter?," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 333-344.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecosys:v:37:y:2013:i:3:p:333-344
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecosys.2013.04.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bruno Decreuse & Paul Maarek, 2015. "FDI and the Labor Share in Developing Countries : A Theory and Some Evidence," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 119-120, pages 289-319.
    2. David H. Romer & Jeffrey A. Frankel, 1999. "Does Trade Cause Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 379-399, June.
    3. William D. Nordhaus, 2002. "Productivity Growth and the New Economy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 33(2), pages 211-265.
    4. Douglas Gollin, 2002. "Getting Income Shares Right," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(2), pages 458-474, April.
    5. Alam, M. Shahid, 2006. "Economic Growth with Energy," MPRA Paper 1260, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Benjamin Bental & Dominique Demougin, 2006. "Institutions, Bargaining Power and Labor Shares," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2006-009, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
    7. Prescott, Edward C, 1998. "Needed: A Theory of Total Factor Productivity," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(3), pages 525-551, August.
    8. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
    9. repec:mes:challe:v:41:y:1998:i:2:p:81-94 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Koetse, Mark J. & de Groot, Henri L.F. & Florax, Raymond J.G.M., 2008. "Capital-energy substitution and shifts in factor demand: A meta-analysis," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 2236-2251, September.
    11. Douglas, Paul H, 1976. "The Cobb-Douglas Production Function Once Again: Its History, Its Testing, and Some New Empirical Values," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(5), pages 903-915, October.
    12. Dani Rodrik, 1998. "Has Globalization Gone Too Far?," Challenge, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(2), pages 81-94, March.
    13. Klump, Rainer & McAdam, Peter & Willman, Alpo, 2004. "Factor substitution and factor augmenting technical progress in the US: a normalized supply-side system approach," Working Paper Series 367, European Central Bank.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Facciamo i conti
      by Alberto Bagnai in Goofynomics on 2014-02-25 06:03:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Gary Jefferson, 2017. "Reformulating Technical Change and Growth Theory," Working Papers 111, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School.
    2. repec:mes:eaeuec:v:54:y:2016:i:3:p:191-207 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Josef C. Brada & El-hadj Bah, 2014. "Growing Income Inequality as a Challenge to 21st Century Capitalism," a/ Working Papers Series 1402, Italian Association for the Study of Economic Asymmetries, Rome (Italy).
    4. Saari, M. Yusof & Dietzenbacher, Erik & Los, Bart, 2016. "The impacts of petroleum price fluctuations on income distribution across ethnic groups in Malaysia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 25-36.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Factor shares; Labor incomes; Globalization; Technological progress; Energy; Economic growth;

    JEL classification:

    • D33 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Factor Income Distribution
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy

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