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Understanding Increasing and Decreasing Wage Inequality

In: The Impact of International Trade on Wages

  • Andrew B. Bernard
  • J. Bradford Jensen

This paper uses data on inequality within U.S. states to test hypotheses about the sources of rising wage inequality during the 1970s and 1980s. State labor markets are found to respond to local demand shocks in the short and medium run and to national (industry) demand shocks only after long intervals. The measure of wage inequality employed in the paper is the (log) ratio of the weekly wage at the 90th percentile to that at the 10th percentile in the state after controlling for observable characteristics of the workers. Individual states are found to have very different levels and changes of inequality. For example, Pennsylvania and Georgia had the second lowest and ninth highest 90-10 ratios respectively in 1970. By 1990, Georgia's 90-10 ratio had fallen 4% while Pennsylvania's had risen 21%. This paper finds that changes in industrial composition, in particular the loss of durable manufacturing jobs, are strongly correlated with inequality increases.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Robert C. Feenstra, 2000. "The Impact of International Trade on Wages," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feen00-1, 07.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 6195.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6195
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    1. Daron Acemoglu, 1998. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change And Wage Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1055-1089, November.
    2. Paul Krugman, 1995. "Technology, Trade, and Factor Prices," NBER Working Papers 5355, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Borjas, George J & Freeman, Richard B & Katz, Lawrence, 1996. "Searching for the Effect of Immigration on the Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 246-51, May.
    4. Barry T. Hirsch & David A. Macpherson, 1993. "Union Membership and Coverage Files from the Current Population Surveys: Note," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 46(3), pages 574-578, April.
    5. Eli Berman & John Bound & Stephen Machin, 1997. "Implications of Skill-Biased Technological Change: International Evidence," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 78, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
    6. David Neumark & William Wascher, 1992. "Employment effects of minimum and subminimum wages: Panel data on state minimum wage laws," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 46(1), pages 55-81, October.
    7. Peter Gottschalk, 1997. "Inequality, Income Growth, and Mobility: The Basic Facts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 21-40, Spring.
    8. Hooker, Mark A & Knetter, Michael M, 1997. "The Effects of Military Spending on Economic Activity: Evidence from State Procurement Spending," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(3), pages 400-421, August.
    9. Bradford J Jensen & Andrew B Bernard, 1994. "Exporters, Skill Upgrading And The Wage Gap," Working Papers 94-13, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    10. John E. DiNardo & Jorn-Steffen Pischke, 1996. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," NBER Working Papers 5606, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Griliches, Zvi, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-97, May.
    12. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
    13. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Lawrence F. Katz, 1992. "Regional Evolutions," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(1), pages 1-76.
    14. Nicole M. Fortin & Thomas Lemieux, 1997. "Institutional Changes and Rising Wage Inequality: Is There a Linkage?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 75-96, Spring.
    15. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
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