IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

What's behind the rise in profitability in the US in the 1980s and 1990s?


  • Edward N. Wolff


Profitability in the US has been rising since the early 1980s and by 1997 was at its highest level since its post-World War II peak in the mid-1960s, and the profit share, by one definition, at its highest point. In this paper, I examine the role of the change in the profit share and capital intensity, as well as structural change, on movements in the rate of profit between 1947 and 1997. Its recent recovery is traced to a rise in the profit share in national income, a slowdown in capital--labour growth at the industry level, and employment shifts to relatively labour-intensive industries. Copyright 2003, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward N. Wolff, 2003. "What's behind the rise in profitability in the US in the 1980s and 1990s?," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 27(4), pages 479-499, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:27:y:2003:i:4:p:479-499

    Download full text from publisher

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Malerba, Franco, 2002. "Sectoral systems of innovation and production," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 247-264, February.
    2. Horst Hanusch (ed.), 1999. "The Legacy of Joseph A. Schumpeter," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, volume 0, number 1182.
    3. Jovanovic, Boyan & MacDonald, Glenn M, 1994. "The Life Cycle of a Competitive Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(2), pages 322-347, April.
    4. S. Illeris & G. Akehurst, 2001. "Introduction," The Service Industries Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(1), pages 1-4, January.
    5. Thomas Grebel & Andreas Pyka & Horst Hanusch, 2004. "An evolutionary approach to the theory of entrepreneurship," Chapters,in: Applied Evolutionary Economics and Complex Systems, chapter 7 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    6. Klepper, Steven, 1997. "Industry Life Cycles," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 145-181.
    7. Franco Malerba, 2005. "Sectoral systems of innovation: a framework for linking innovation to the knowledge base, structure and dynamics of sectors," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(1-2), pages 63-82.
    8. Amendola, Mario & Gaffard, Jean-Luc, 1998. "Out of Equilibrium," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198293804, June.
    9. Andreas Pyka & Horst Hanusch (ed.), 2006. "Applied Evolutionary Economics and the Knowledge-based Economy," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 3486.
    10. Kurt Dopfer & John Foster & Jason Potts, 2004. "Micro-meso-macro," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 263-279, July.
    11. Utterback, James M & Abernathy, William J, 1975. "A dynamic model of process and product innovation," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 3(6), pages 639-656, December.
    12. Kirman, Alan, 1989. "The Intrinsic Limits of Modern Economic Theory: The Emperor Has No Clothes," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(395), pages 126-139, Supplemen.
    13. Koen Frenken, 2006. "Technological innovation and complexity theory," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(2), pages 137-155.
    14. Pier Saviotti & Andreas Pyka, 2004. "Economic development by the creation of new sectors," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 1-35, January.
    15. Gort, Michael & Klepper, Steven, 1982. "Time Paths in the Diffusion of Product Innovations," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(367), pages 630-653, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)



    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Vaona, Andrea, 2011. "Profit rate dynamics, income distribution, structural and technical change in Denmark, Finland and Italy," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 247-268, September.
    2. Silvia Domeneghetti & Andrea Vaona, 2015. "Regional aspects of aggregate profitability dynamics in Italy," Working Papers 04/2015, University of Verona, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:27:y:2003:i:4:p:479-499. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.