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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. repec:cup:macdyn:v:22:y:2018:i:08:p:2070-2087_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Bridgman, Benjamin, 2018. "Is Labor'S Loss Capital'S Gain? Gross Versus Net Labor Shares," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(08), pages 2070-2087, December.
    3. 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.
    4. Matthias Kehrig & Nicolas Vincent, 2018. "The Micro-Level Anatomy of the Labor Share Decline," NBER Working Papers 25275, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Koh, Dongya; Santaeulàlia-Llopis, Raül; Zheng, Yu, 2015. "Labor share decline and intellectual property products capital," Economics Working Papers ECO2015/05, European University Institute.
    6. 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.
    7. Miguel A. León-Ledesma & Peter McAdam & Alpo Willman, 2010. "Identifying the Elasticity of Substitution with Biased Technical Change," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1330-1357, September.
    8. Brent Neiman, 2014. "The Global Decline of the Labor Share," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 61-103.
    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. Richiardi, Matteo G. & Valenzuela, Luis, 2019. "Firm Heterogeneity and the Aggregate Labour Share," MPRA Paper 94561, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Firm dynamics; International topics; Labour markets;

    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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