Politico-economic consequences of rising wage inequality
This paper uses a dynamic political economy model to evaluate whether the observed rise in wage inequality and decrease in median to mean wages can explain some portion of the relative increase in transfers to low earnings quintiles and relative increase in effective tax rates for high earnings quintiles in the U.S. over the past several decades. Specifically, we assume that households have uninsurable idiosyncratic labor efficiency shocks and consider policy choices by a median voter which are required to be consistent with a sequential equilibrium. We choose the transition matrix to match observed mobility in wages between 1978 and 1979 in the panel study of income dynamics (PSID) data set and then evaluate the response of social insurance policies to a new transition matrix that matches the observed mobility in wages between 1995 and 1996 and is consistent with the rise in wage inequality and the decrease in median to mean wages between 1979 and 1996. We deal with the problem that policy outcomes affect the evolution of the wealth distribution (and hence prices) by approximating the distribution by a small set of moments. We contrast these numbers with those from a sequential utilitarian mechanism, as well as mechanisms with commitment.
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