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The Evolution of Inequality in Productivity and Wages: Panel Data Evidence

  • Giulia Faggio
  • Kjell Salvanes
  • John Van Reenen

There has been a remarkable increase in wage inequality in the US, UK and many other countries over the past three decades. A significant part of this appears to be within observable groups (such as age-gender-skill cells). A generally untested implication of many theories rationalizing the growth of within-group inequality is that firm-level productivity dispersion should also have increased. Since the relevant data do not exist in the US we utilize a UK longitudinal panel dataset covering the manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors since the early 1980s. We find evidence that productivity inequality has increased. Existing studies have underestimated this increased dispersion because they use data from the manufacturing sector which has been in rapid decline. Most of the increase in individual wage inequality has occurred because of an increase in inequality between firms (and within industries). Increased productivity dispersion appears to be linked with new technologies as suggested by models such as Caselli (1999) and is not primarily due to an increase in transitory shocks, greater sorting or entry/exit dynamics.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0821.

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Date of creation: Aug 2007
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0821
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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  1. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Increasing Residual Wage Inequality: Composition Effects, Noisy Data, or Rising Demand for Skill?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 461-498, June.
  2. Stephen Nickell, 1993. "Competition and Corporate Performance," CEP Discussion Papers dp0182, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  3. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
  4. G. Steven Olley & Ariel Pakes, 1992. "The Dynamics of Productivity in the Telecommunications Equipment Industry," NBER Working Papers 3977, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Michael Kremer & Eric Maskin, 1996. "Wage Inequality and Segregation," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1777, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  6. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Chad Syverson, 2004. "Market Structure and Productivity: A Concrete Example," NBER Working Papers 10501, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Kremer, M & Maskin, E, 1996. "Wage Inequality and Segregation by Skill," Working papers 96-23, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. Van Reenen, John, 1994. "The Creation and Capture of Rents: Wages and Innovation in a Panel of UK Companies," CEPR Discussion Papers 1071, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Violante, Giovanni L, 2001. "Technological Acceleration, Skill Transferability and the Rise in Residual Inequality," CEPR Discussion Papers 2765, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2005. "Rising Wage Inequality: The Role of Composition and Prices," NBER Working Papers 11628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Thomas Lemieux, 2002. "Decomposing changes in wage distributions: a unified approach," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(4), pages 646-688, November.
  13. Rasmus Lentz & Dale T. Mortensen, 2005. "Productivity Growth And Worker Reallocation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 46(3), pages 731-749, 08.
  14. Julia I. Lane & John C. Haltiwanger & James Spletzer, 1999. "Productivity Differences across Employers: The Roles of Employer Size, Age, and Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 94-98, May.
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