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Firms and Labor Market Inequality: Evidence and Some Theory

In: Firms and the Distribution of Income: The Roles of Productivity and Luck

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  • David Card
  • Ana Rute Cardoso
  • Jorg Heining
  • Patrick Kline

Abstract

We review the literature on firm-level drivers of labor market inequality. There is strong evidence from a variety of fields that standard measures of productivity – like output per worker or total factor productivity – vary substantially across firms, even within narrowly-defined industries. Several recent studies note that rising trends in the dispersion of productivity across firms mirror the trends in the wage inequality across workers. Two distinct literatures have searched for a more direct link between these two phenomena. The first examines how wages are affected by differences in employer productivity. Studies that focus on firm-specific productivity shocks and control for the non-random sorting of workers to more and less productive firms typically find that a 10% increase in value-added per worker leads to somewhere between a 0.5% and 1.5% increase in wages. A second literature focuses on firm-specific wage premiums, using the wage outcomes of job changers. This literature also concludes that firm pay setting is important for wage inequality, with many studies finding that firm wage effects contribute approximately 20% of the overall variance of wages. To interpret these findings, we develop a model where workplace environments are viewed as imperfect substitutes by workers, and firms set wages with some degree of market power. We show that simple versions of this model can readily match the stylized empirical findings in the literature regarding rent-sharing elasticities and the structure of firm-specific pay premiums.
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Suggested Citation

  • David Card & Ana Rute Cardoso & Jorg Heining & Patrick Kline, 2015. "Firms and Labor Market Inequality: Evidence and Some Theory," NBER Chapters,in: Firms and the Distribution of Income: The Roles of Productivity and Luck National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:13720
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    Cited by:

    1. José A. Azar & Ioana Marinescu & Marshall I. Steinbaum & Bledi Taska, 2018. "Concentration in US Labor Markets: Evidence From Online Vacancy Data," NBER Working Papers 24395, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Eliason, Marcus & Hensvik, Lena & Kramarz, Francis & Nordström Skans, Oskar, 2017. "The causal impact of social Connections on firms' outcomes," Working Paper Series 2017:11, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    3. Daniel Schaefer & Carl Singleton, 2017. "Recent Changes in British Wage Inequality: Evidence from Firms and Occupations," 2017 Meeting Papers 459, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Boris Hirsch & Steffen Müller, 2018. "Firm Wage Premia, Industrial Relations, and Rent Sharing in Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 6890, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Jewell, Sarah & Razzu, Giovanni & Singleton, Carl, 2018. "Who works for whom and the UK gender pay gap?," MPRA Paper 87191, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. repec:eee:eecrev:v:105:y:2018:i:c:p:83-102 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Giuseppe Berlingieri & Patrick Blanchenay & Chiara Criscuolo, 2017. "The Great Divergence(s)," CEP Discussion Papers dp1488, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    8. John Haltiwanger & Henry Hyatt & Erika McEntarfer, 2018. "Who Moves Up the Job Ladder?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(S1), pages 301-336.
      • John Haltiwanger & Henry Hyatt & Erika McEntarfer, 2015. "Who Moves Up the Job Ladder?," NBER Chapters,in: Firms and the Distribution of Income: The Roles of Productivity and Luck National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Dögüs, Ilhan, 2017. "Rising wage dispersion between white-collar and blue-collar workers and market concentration: The case of the USA, 1966-2011," Discussion Papers 62, University of Hamburg, Centre for Economic and Sociological Studies (CESS/ZÖSS).
    10. Patrick Kline & Raffaele Saggio & Mikkel S{o}lvsten, 2018. "Leave-out estimation of variance components," Papers 1806.01494, arXiv.org.
    11. José Azar & Ioana Marinescu & Marshall I. Steinbaum, 2017. "Labor Market Concentration," NBER Working Papers 24147, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Ben Sand & Chris Bidner, 2016. "Job Prospects and Pay Gaps: Theory and Evidence on the Gender Gap from U.S. Cities," Discussion Papers dp16-14, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
    13. Cardoso, Ana Rute & Guimaraes, Paulo & Portugal, Pedro & Reis, Hugo, 2018. "The Returns to Schooling Unveiled," IZA Discussion Papers 11419, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Alonso Bucarey & Dante Contreras & Pablo Muñoz, 2018. "Labor Market Returns to Student Loans," Working Papers wp464, University of Chile, Department of Economics.
    15. repec:eee:inecon:v:111:y:2018:i:c:p:122-133 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Muendler, Marc-Andreas, 2017. "Trade, technology, and prosperity: An account of evidence from a labor-market perspective," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2017-15, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.

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    JEL classification:

    • D22 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J42 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Monopsony; Segmented Labor Markets

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