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The great increase in relative wage volatility in the United States

  • Champagne, Julien
  • Kurmann, André

Over the past 25 years, real average hourly wages in the United States have become substantially more volatile relative to output. Microdata from the Current Population Survey (CPS) is used to show that this increase in relative volatility is predominantly due to increases in the relative volatility of hourly wages across different groups of workers. Compositional changes of the workforce, by contrast, account for only a small fraction of the increase in relative wage volatility. Simulations with a Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) model illustrate that the observed increase in relative wage volatility is unlikely to come from changes outside of the labor market (e.g. smaller exogenous shocks or more aggressive monetary policy). By contrast, greater flexibility in wage setting due to deunionization and a shift towards performance-pay contracts as experienced by the U.S. labor market is capable of accounting for a substantial fraction of the observed increase in relative wage volatility. Greater wage flexibility also decreases the magnitude of business cycle fluctuations, suggesting an interesting new explanation for the Great Moderation.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Monetary Economics.

Volume (Year): 60 (2013)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 166-183

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Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:60:y:2013:i:2:p:166-183
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