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The labour share of income: heterogeneous causes for parallel movements?


  • Jan Hogrefe


  • Marcus Kappler



The distribution of factor incomes from a macroeconomic perspective is an increasingly popular research topic—be it for its implications for the personal income distribution or the apparent mistake in previous research declaring it to be constant over time. The labour share has been decreasing across OECD countries since the 1980s, sparking a renewed interest in what is behind this trend. The aim of this paper is to take a systematic approach to estimating the coefficients of factors explaining these movements across countries. In particular, we focus on proper dynamic model specification and test the validity of the homogeneity assumption of slope coefficients frequently implied in previous studies. We employ fixed effect estimators as well as pooled mean group and mean group estimators, the latter in a dynamic heterogeneous panel framework. We find support for a dynamic estimation setup and derive statements regarding the homogeneity assumption with respect to the three most prominent explanatory variables in the literature: the capital-output ratio, total factor productivity and trade openness. We find the first two variables to decrease the labour share, to be better captured by dynamic estimators and to be better identified in more recent time periods. With regard to trade, we see it depressing the labour share since 1980 only. We furthermore provide evidence on increased cross-country homogeneity over time for all of the analysed driving forces of the labour share. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Jan Hogrefe & Marcus Kappler, 2013. "The labour share of income: heterogeneous causes for parallel movements?," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 11(3), pages 303-319, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jecinq:v:11:y:2013:i:3:p:303-319 DOI: 10.1007/s10888-012-9221-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Olivier Blanchard & Francesco Giavazzi, 2003. "Macroeconomic Effects of Regulation and Deregulation in Goods and Labor Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 879-907.
    2. Pesaran, M. Hashem & Smith, Ron, 1995. "Estimating long-run relationships from dynamic heterogeneous panels," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 79-113, July.
    3. Douglas Gollin, 2002. "Getting Income Shares Right," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(2), pages 458-474, April.
    4. John Hutchinson & Damiaan Persyn, 2012. "Globalisation, concentration and footloose firms: in search of the main cause of the declining labour share," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 148(1), pages 17-43, April.
    5. M. Hashem Pesaran, 2006. "Estimation and Inference in Large Heterogeneous Panels with a Multifactor Error Structure," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(4), pages 967-1012, July.
    6. Kei-Mu Yi, 2003. "Can Vertical Specialization Explain the Growth of World Trade?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(1), pages 52-102, February.
    7. Alfonso Arpaia & Esther Pérez & Karl Pichelmann, 2009. "Understanding Labour Income Share Dynamics in Europe," European Economy - Economic Papers 2008 - 2015 379, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    8. Hummels, David & Ishii, Jun & Yi, Kei-Mu, 2001. "The nature and growth of vertical specialization in world trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 75-96, June.
    9. Daniele Checchi & Cecilia García-Peñalosa, 2008. "Labour market institutions and income inequality," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 23, pages 601-649, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Busl, Claudia & Seymen, Atılım, 2013. "The German labour market reforms in a European context: A DSGE analysis," ZEW Discussion Papers 13-097, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    2. Bárbara Cardoso Dias & Ana Urraca Ruiz, 2016. "A Mudança Estrutural Como Indutora Da Distribuição Funcional Da Renda No Brasil," Anais do XLIII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 43rd Brazilian Economics Meeting] 021, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    3. Naude, Wim & Nagler, Paula, 2015. "Industrialisation, Innovation, Inclusion," MERIT Working Papers 043, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    4. Dario JUDZIK & Hector SALA, 2013. "Productivity, deunionization and trade: Wage effects and labour share implications," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 152(2), pages 205-236, June.
    5. Claudia Busl & Atilim Seymen, 2013. "(Spillover) Effects of Labour Market Reforms in Germany and France," WWWforEurope Working Papers series 8, WWWforEurope.

    More about this item


    Factor income; Labour share; Dynamic heterogeneous panel models; C23; E23; E25; F16;

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • 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
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions


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