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Labor Market Reforms and Changes in Wage Inequality in the United Kingdom and the United States

In: Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms, 1980–2000

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  • Amanda Gosling
  • Thomas Lemieux

Abstract

This paper compares trends in male and female hourly wage inequality in the United Kingdom and the United States between 1979 and 1998. Our main finding is that the extent and pattern of wage inequality became increasingly similar in the two countries during this period. We attribute this convergence to 'U.S. style' reforms in the U.K. labour market. In particular, we argue that the much steeper decline in unionisation in the United Kingdom explains why inequality increased faster than in the United States. For women, we conclude that the fall and subsequent recovery in the real value of the U.S. minimum wage explains why wage inequality increased faster in the United States than in the United Kingdom during the 1980s, while the opposite happened during the 1990s. Interestingly, the introduction of the National Minimum Wage in the U.K. in 1999 also contributed to the convergence in labour market institutions and wage inequality between the two countries.
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Suggested Citation

  • Amanda Gosling & Thomas Lemieux, 2004. "Labor Market Reforms and Changes in Wage Inequality in the United Kingdom and the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms, 1980–2000, pages 275-312, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6750
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. David Card, 1992. "The Effect of Unions on the Distribution of Wages: Redistribution or Relabelling?," NBER Working Papers 4195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Machin, Stephen, 1996. "Wage Inequality in the UK," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press and Oxford Review of Economic Policy Limited, vol. 12(1), pages 47-64, Spring.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J5 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining

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