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Can Capital Deepening Explain the Global Decline in Labor’s Share?

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  • Andrew Glover
  • Jacob Short

Abstract

We estimate an aggregate elasticity of substitution between capital and labor near or below one, which implies that capital deepening cannot explain the global decline in labor's share. Our methodology derives from transition paths in the neo-classical growth model. The elasticity of substitution is identified from the cross-country correlation between trends in the labor share and (a proxy for) the rental rate of capital. Trends in labor's share and the rental rate are weakly correlated across countries, and inversely related in most samples. Previous cross-country estimates of this elasticity were substantially greater than one, which we show was partly due to omitted variable bias: earlier studies used investment prices alone to proxy for the rental rate, whereas the growth model relates rental rates to investment prices and consumption growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Glover & Jacob Short, 2019. "Can Capital Deepening Explain the Global Decline in Labor’s Share?," Staff Working Papers 19-3, Bank of Canada.
  • Handle: RePEc:bca:bocawp:19-3
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Matthias Kehrig & Nicolas Vincent, 2018. "The Micro-Level Anatomy of the Labor Share Decline," NBER Working Papers 25275, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Thomas Piketty & Gabriel Zucman, 2014. "Capital is Back: Wealth-Income Ratios in Rich Countries 1700–2010," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(3), pages 1255-1310.
    3. Dongya Koh & Raül Santaeulàlia‐Llopis & Yu Zheng, 2020. "Labor Share Decline and Intellectual Property Products Capital," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 88(6), pages 2609-2628, November.
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    5. Brent Neiman, 2014. "The Global Decline of the Labor Share," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 61-103.
    6. Bridgman, Benjamin, 2018. "Is Labor'S Loss Capital'S Gain? Gross Versus Net Labor Shares," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(8), pages 2070-2087, December.
    7. Matthew Rognlie, 2015. "Deciphering the Fall and Rise in the Net Capital Share," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 50(1 (Spring), pages 1-69.
    8. Nicolas Vincent & Matthias Kehrig, 2017. "Growing Productivity without Growing Wages: The Micro-Level Anatomy of the Aggregate Labor Share Decline," 2017 Meeting Papers 739, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Matthew Rognlie, 2015. "Deciphering the Fall and Rise in the Net Capital Share: Accumulation or Scarcity?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 46(1 (Spring), pages 1-69.
    10. Chirinko, Robert S., 2008. "[sigma]: The long and short of it," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 671-686, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kostarakos, Ilias, 2020. "Determinants of the (non-Housing) Labour Income Share in the EU," Papers WP693, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    2. Andrew Glover & Jacob Short, 2020. "Demographic Origins of the Decline in Labor's Share," BIS Working Papers 874, Bank for International Settlements.
    3. Matteo Richiardi & Luis Valenzuela, 2019. "Firm Heterogeneity and the Aggregate Labour Share," LABORatorio R. Revelli Working Papers Series 166, LABORatorio R. Revelli, Centre for Employment Studies.
    4. d’Albis, Hippolyte & Boubtane, Ekrame & Coulibaly, Dramane, 2021. "Demographic changes and the labor income share," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 131(C).
    5. Süssmuth, Bernd & Irmen, Andreas & Heer, Burkhard, 2020. "Taxation, Automation Capital, and the Functional Income Distribution," VfS Annual Conference 2020 (Virtual Conference): Gender Economics 224572, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    6. Berthold Herrendorf & Richard Rogerson & Akos Valentinyi, 2019. "Growth and the Kaldor Facts," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 101(4), pages 259-276.
    7. Arif, Imran, 2021. "Productive knowledge, economic sophistication, and labor share," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 139(C).
    8. R. Dixon & G.C. Lim, 2017. "Labor's Share, the Firm's Market Power and TFP," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2017n22, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    9. Song, Eunbi, 2021. "What drives labor share change? Evidence from Korean industries," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 370-385.
    10. Gonzalez, Ignacio & Trivin, Pedro, 2019. "The Global Rise of Asset Prices and the Decline of the Labor Share," MPRA Paper 94587, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Burkhard Heer & Andreas Irmen & Bernd Süssmuth, 2020. "Explaining the Decline in the US Labor Share: Taxation and Automation," CREA Discussion Paper Series 20-20, Center for Research in Economic Analysis, University of Luxembourg.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Firm dynamics; International topics; Labour markets;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • E13 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Neoclassical

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