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The great increase in relative wage volatility in the United States

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  • Champagne, Julien
  • Kurmann, André

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Champagne, Julien & Kurmann, André, 2013. "The great increase in relative wage volatility in the United States," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 166-183.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:60:y:2013:i:2:p:166-183
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jmoneco.2012.10.023
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    Cited by:

    1. Casares, Miguel & Moreno, Antonio & Vázquez, Jesús, 2014. "An estimated New-Keynesian model with unemployment as excess supply of labor," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 338-359.
    2. Champagne, Julien & Kurmann, André & Stewart, Jay, 2017. "Reconciling the divergence in aggregate U.S. wage series," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 27-41.
    3. Jordi Galí & Thijs van Rens, 2008. "The vanishing procyclicality of labor productivity," Economics Working Papers 1230, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jul 2010.
    4. Areosa, Waldyr Dutra & Areosa, Marta B.M., 2016. "The inequality channel of monetary transmission," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 214-230.
    5. Julien Champagne, 2015. "The Carrot and the Stick: The Business Cycle Implications of Incentive Pay in the Labor Search Model," Staff Working Papers 15-35, Bank of Canada.
    6. Bryan Perry & Kerk Phillips & David E. Spencer, 2015. "Real wages and monetary policy: a DSGE approach," Journal of Economic Studies, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 42(5), pages 734-752, October.

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