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Growing Productivity without Growing Wages: The Micro-Level Anatomy of the Aggregate Labor Share Decline

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Listed:
  • Matthias Kehrig
  • Nicolas Vincent

Abstract

The aggregate labor share in U.S. manufacturing declined dramatically over the last three decades: Since the mid-1980’s, the compensation for labor declined from 67% to 47% of value added which is unseen in any other sector of the U.S. economy. The labor share of the typical U.S. manufacturing plants, in contrast, rose by over 5 percentage points. We reconcile these two facts by documenting (1) an important reallocation of production towards “hyper-productive plants” and (2) a downward adjustment of the labor share of those same plants over time. These two related forces account for almost all the change in the trend of aggregate labor share in the manufacturing sector, with only a small role for exit of high-labor-share plants. Relative to their peers, plants that account for the majority of production by the late 2000's arrive at a low labor share by gradually increasing value added by a factor of three while keeping employment and compensation unchanged.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthias Kehrig & Nicolas Vincent, 2017. "Growing Productivity without Growing Wages: The Micro-Level Anatomy of the Aggregate Labor Share Decline," CESifo Working Paper Series 6454, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6454
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Nitya Pandalai Nayar & Aaron Flaaen & Christoph Boehm, 2016. "Multinationals, Offshoring and the Decline of U.S. Manufacturing," 2016 Meeting Papers 584, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Maya Eden & Paul Gaggl, 2018. "On the Welfare Implications of Automation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 29, pages 15-43, July.
    3. Koh, Dongya; Santaeulàlia-Llopis, Raül; Zheng, Yu, 2015. "Labor share decline and intellectual property products capital," Economics Working Papers ECO2015/05, European University Institute.
    4. Hartman-Glaser, Barney & Lustig, Hanno & Zhang, Mindy X., 2017. "Capital Share Dynamics When Firms Insure Workers," Research Papers 3534, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    5. Alvarez-Cuadrado, Francisco & Long, Ngo Van & Poschke, Markus, 2018. "Capital-labor substitution, structural change and the labor income share," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 206-231.
    6. Robert Z. Lawrence, 2015. "Recent Declines in Labor's Share in US Income: A Preliminary Neoclassical Account," Working Paper Series WP15-10, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    7. repec:cup:macdyn:v:22:y:2018:i:08:p:2070-2087_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. 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.
    9. Loukas Karabarbounis & Brent Neiman, 2014. "Capital Depreciation and Labor Shares Around the World: Measurement and Implications," NBER Working Papers 20606, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Jacob Short & Andrew Glover, 2017. "The Age-Distribution of Earnings and the Decline in Labor's Share," 2017 Meeting Papers 1369, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    labor share; productivity; firm size distribution; organization of markets;

    JEL classification:

    • E20 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General
    • L60 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - General
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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