IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/cep/cepdps/dp1354.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Firming Up Inequality

Author

Listed:
  • Nick Bloom
  • Fatih Guvenen
  • David J. Price
  • Jae Song

Abstract

Earnings inequality in the United States has increased rapidly over the last three decades, but little is known about the role of firms in this trend. For example, how much of the rise in earnings inequality can be attributed to rising dispersion between firms in the average wages they pay, and how much is due to rising wage dispersion among workers within firms? Similarly, how did rising inequality affect the wage earnings of different types of workers working for the same employer—men vs. women, young vs. old, new hires vs. senior employees, and so on? To address questions like these, we begin by constructing a matched employer-employee data set for the United States using administrative records. Covering all U.S. firms between 1978 to 2012, we show that virtually all of the rise in earnings dispersion between workers is accounted for by increasing dispersion in average wages paid by the employers of these individuals. In contrast, pay differences within employers have remained virtually unchanged, a finding that is robust across industries, geographical regions, and firm size groups. Furthermore, the wage gap between the most highly paid employees within these firms (CEOs and high level executives) and the average employee has increased only by a small amount, refuting oft-made claims that such widening gaps account for a large fraction of rising inequality in the population.

Suggested Citation

  • Nick Bloom & Fatih Guvenen & David J. Price & Jae Song, 2015. "Firming Up Inequality," CEP Discussion Papers dp1354, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1354
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp1354.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. David Card & Ana Rute Cardoso & Joerg Heining & Patrick Kline, 2018. "Firms and Labor Market Inequality: Evidence and Some Theory," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(S1), pages 13-70.
    2. Emily Breza & Supreet Kaur & Yogita Shamdasani, 2018. "The Morale Effects of Pay Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 133(2), pages 611-663.
    3. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-283.
    4. David Card & Jörg Heining & Patrick Kline, 2013. "Workplace Heterogeneity and the Rise of West German Wage Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(3), pages 967-1015.
    5. Giulia Faggio & Kjell G. Salvanes & John Van Reenen, 2010. "The evolution of inequality in productivity and wages: panel data evidence," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(6), pages 1919-1951, December.
    6. Andrews, M.J. & Gill, L. & Schank, T. & Upward, R., 2012. "High wage workers match with high wage firms: Clear evidence of the effects of limited mobility bias," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 117(3), pages 824-827.
    7. Gruetter, Max & Lalive, Rafael, 2009. "The importance of firms in wage determination," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 149-160, April.
    8. David H. Autor & David Dorn & Gordon H. Hanson, 2013. "The China Syndrome: Local Labor Market Effects of Import Competition in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2121-2168, October.
    9. Elhanan Helpman & Oleg Itskhoki & Marc-Andreas Muendler & Stephen J. Redding, 2017. "Trade and Inequality: From Theory to Estimation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(1), pages 357-405.
    10. Kremer, M & Maskin, E, 1996. "Wage Inequality and Segregation by Skill," Working papers 96-23, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    11. Christina Håkanson & Erik Lindqvist & Jonas Vlachos, 2021. "Firms and Skills: The Evolution of Worker Sorting," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 56(2), pages 512-538.
    12. Daron Acemoglu, 1999. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1259-1278, December.
    13. Deborah Goldschmidt & Johannes F. Schmieder, 2017. "The Rise of Domestic Outsourcing and the Evolution of the German Wage Structure," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(3), pages 1165-1217.
    14. Holger M. Mueller & Paige P. Ouimet & Elena Simintzi, 2015. "Wage Inequality and Firm Growth," NBER Working Papers 20876, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Rebecca Diamond, 2016. "The Determinants and Welfare Implications of US Workers' Diverging Location Choices by Skill: 1980-2000," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(3), pages 479-524, March.
    16. John M. Abowd & Francis Kramarz & David N. Margolis, 1999. "High Wage Workers and High Wage Firms," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(2), pages 251-334, March.
    17. Arindrajit Dube & Laura Giuliano & Jonathan Leonard, 2019. "Fairness and Frictions: The Impact of Unequal Raises on Quit Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(2), pages 620-663, February.
    18. Patrick Kline & Raffaele Saggio & Mikkel Sølvsten, 2020. "Leave‐Out Estimation of Variance Components," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 88(5), pages 1859-1898, September.
    19. Alex Bryson, 2014. "It's Where You Work: Increases in Earnings Dispersion across Establishments and Individuals in the U.S," National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) Discussion Papers 436, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
    20. Abraham, Katharine G & Taylor, Susan K, 1996. "Firms' Use of Outside Contractors: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(3), pages 394-424, July.
    21. Erling Barth & Alex Bryson & James C. Davis & Richard Freeman, 2016. "It's Where You Work: Increases in the Dispersion of Earnings across Establishments and Individuals in the United States," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(S2), pages 67-97.
    22. Jorge Alvarez & Felipe Benguria & Niklas Engbom & Christian Moser, 2018. "Firms and the Decline in Earnings Inequality in Brazil," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 149-189, January.
    23. Steven J. Davis & Till Von Wachter, 2011. "Recessions and the Costs of Job Loss," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 42(2 (Fall)), pages 1-72.
    24. Justin R. Pierce & Peter K. Schott, 2016. "The Surprisingly Swift Decline of US Manufacturing Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(7), pages 1632-1662, July.
    25. Marta Lachowska & Alexandre Mas & Stephen A. Woodbury, 2020. "Sources of Displaced Workers' Long-Term Earnings Losses," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(10), pages 3231-3266, October.
    26. Matthew Smith & Danny Yagan & Owen Zidar & Eric Zwick, 2019. "Capitalists in the Twenty-First Century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 134(4), pages 1675-1745.
    27. Steve J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1991. "Wage Dispersion Between and Within U.S. Manufacturing Plants, 1963-1986," NBER Working Papers 3722, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    28. Marta Lachowska & Alexandre Mas & Stephen A. Woodbury, 2019. "Sources of Displaced Workers’ Long-Term Earnings Losses," Working Papers 631, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    29. José Mata & José A. F. Machado, 2005. "Counterfactual decomposition of changes in wage distributions using quantile regression," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(4), pages 445-465.
    30. Acemoglu, Daron & Autor, David, 2011. "Skills, Tasks and Technologies: Implications for Employment and Earnings," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 12, pages 1043-1171, Elsevier.
    31. Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 2016. "The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States, 1995-2015," Working Papers 603, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    32. Mueller, Holger M & Ouimet, Paige & Simintzi, Elena, 2015. "Wage Inequality and Firm Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 10365, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    33. Timothy Dunne & Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & Kenneth R. Troske, 2004. "Wage and Productivity Dispersion in United States Manufacturing: The Role of Computer Investment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 397-430, April.
    34. 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.
    35. John M. Abowd & Robert H. Creecy & Francis Kramarz, 2002. "Computing Person and Firm Effects Using Linked Longitudinal Employer-Employee Data," Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Technical Papers 2002-06, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    36. Katarína Borovičková & Robert Shimer, 2017. "High Wage Workers Work for High Wage Firms," NBER Working Papers 24074, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    37. John M. Abowd & Kevin L. McKinney & Nellie L. Zhao, 2018. "Earnings Inequality and Mobility Trends in the United States: Nationally Representative Estimates from Longitudinally Linked Employer-Employee Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(S1), pages 183-300.
    38. Jon Bakija & Adam Cole & Bradley Heim, 2008. "Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data," Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-22, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised Jan 2012.
    39. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
    40. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
    41. Robert Kaestner & Darren Lubotsky, 2016. "Health Insurance and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 53-78, Spring.
    42. Richard V. Burkhauser & Kosali I. Simon, 2010. "Measuring the Impact of Health Insurance on Levels and Trends in Inequality," NBER Working Papers 15811, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    43. repec:oup:restud:v:84:y::i:1:p:357-405. is not listed on IDEAS
    44. 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 410-442, June.
    45. M. J. Andrews & L. Gill & T. Schank & R. Upward, 2008. "High wage workers and low wage firms: negative assortative matching or limited mobility bias?," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 171(3), pages 673-697, June.
    46. Nicholas Bloom & Fatih Guvenen & Benjamin S. Smith & Jae Song & Till von Wachter, 2018. "The Disappearing Large-Firm Wage Premium," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 108, pages 317-322, May.
    47. Lawrence F. Katz & Lawrence H. Summers, 1989. "Industry Rents: Evidence and Implications," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 20(1989 Micr), pages 209-290.
    48. Holger M. Mueller & Paige P. Ouimet & Elena Simintzi, 2015. "Wage Inequality and Firm Growth," LIS Working papers 632, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    49. J. Adam Cobb & Ken-Hou Lin, 2017. "Growing Apart: The Changing Firm-Size Wage Premium and Its Inequality Consequences," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 28(3), pages 429-446, June.
    50. Wojciech Kopczuk & Emmanuel Saez & Jae Song, 2010. "Earnings Inequality and Mobility in the United States: Evidence from Social Security Data Since 1937," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 91-128.
    51. Goux, Dominique & Maurin, Eric, 1999. "Persistence of Interindustry Wage Differentials: A Reexamination Using Matched Worker-Firm Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(3), pages 492-533, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Winkler, Erwin, 2020. "Diverging paths: Labor reallocation, sorting, and wage inequality," VfS Annual Conference 2020 (Virtual Conference): Gender Economics 224535, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    2. Schaefer, Daniel & Singleton, Carl, 2017. "Recent changes in British wage inequality: Evidence from firms and occupations," MPRA Paper 76744, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Daniel Baumgarten & Gabriel Felbermayr & Sybille Lehwald, 2020. "Dissecting Between‐Plant and Within‐Plant Wage Dispersion: Evidence from Germany," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(1), pages 85-122, January.
    4. Christian Moser & Niklas Engbom, 2016. "Earnings Inequality and the Minimum Wage: Evidence from Brazil," 2016 Meeting Papers 72, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Daniel Schaefer & Carl Singleton, 2020. "Recent Changes in British Wage Inequality: Evidence from Large Firms and Occupations," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 67(1), pages 100-125, February.
    6. David Card & Ana Rute Cardoso & Joerg Heining & Patrick Kline, 2018. "Firms and Labor Market Inequality: Evidence and Some Theory," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(S1), pages 13-70.
    7. Colja Schneck, 2021. "Trends in Wage Inequality in the Netherlands," De Economist, Springer, vol. 169(3), pages 253-289, August.
    8. Richiardi, Matteo G. & Valenzuela, Luis, 2019. "Firm Heterogeneity and the Aggregate Labour Share," MPRA Paper 94561, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Nicholas Bloom & Scott Ohlmacher & Cristina Tello-Trillo & Melanie Wallskog, 2021. "Pay, Productivity and Management," Working Papers 21-31, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    10. Stéphane Bonhomme & Kerstin Holzheu & Thibaut Lamadon & Elena Manresa & Magne Mogstad & Bradley Setzler, 2020. "How Much Should we Trust Estimates of Firm Effects and Worker Sorting?," Working Papers 2020-77, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
    11. Morchio, Iacopo & Moser, Christian, 2018. "The Gender Pay Gap: Micro Sources and Macro Consequences," MPRA Paper 99276, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 24 Mar 2020.
    12. Bertay, Ata & Carreño Bustos, José & Huizinga, Harry & Uras, Burak & Vellekoop, N., 2022. "Technological Change and the Finance Wage Premium," Discussion Paper 2022-002, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    13. Claudine Gartenberg & Julie Wulf, 2020. "Competition and Pay Inequality Within and Between Firms," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(12), pages 5925-5943, December.
    14. Torres, Sónia & Portugal, Pedro & Addison, John T. & Guimarães, Paulo, 2018. "The sources of wage variation and the direction of assortative matching: Evidence from a three-way high-dimensional fixed effects regression model," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 47-60.
    15. Bias, Daniel & Chen, Lin & Lochner, Benjamin & Schmid, Thomas, 2020. "Measuring workers' financial incentives," FAU Discussion Papers in Economics 07/2020, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Institute for Economics.
    16. da Silveira, Jaylson Jair & Lima, Gilberto Tadeu, 2021. "Wage inequality as a source of endogenous macroeconomic fluctuations," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 35-52.
    17. Elizabeth Weber Handwerker & James R. Spletzer, 2016. "The Role of Establishments and the Concentration of Occupations in Wage Inequality," Research in Labor Economics, in: Lorenzo Cappellari & Solomon W. Polachek & Konstantinos Tatsiramos (ed.), Inequality: Causes and Consequences, volume 43, pages 167-193, Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    18. Erling Barth & James Davis & Richard B. Freeman, 2018. "Augmenting the Human Capital Earnings Equation with Measures of Where People Work," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(S1), pages 71-97.
    19. Morchio, Iacopo & Moser, Christian, 2018. "The Gender Pay Gap: Micro Sources and Macro Consequences," MPRA Paper 99276, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 24 Mar 2020.
    20. Patrick Kline & Neviana Petkova & Heidi Williams & Owen Zidar, 2019. "Who Profits from Patents? Rent-Sharing at Innovative Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 134(3), pages 1343-1404.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Inequality; productivity and firms;

    JEL classification:

    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy
    • M1 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1354. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/discussion-papers/ .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/discussion-papers/ .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.