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Earnings Inequality and the Business Cycle

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  • Barlevy, Gadi
  • Tsiddon, Daniel

Abstract

Economists have long viewed recessions as contributing to increasing inequality. This conclusion is largely based on data from a period in which inequality was increasing over time, however. This Paper examines the connection between long-run trends and cyclical variation in earnings inequality. We develop a model in which cyclical and trend inequality are related, and find that in our model, recessions tend to amplify long-run trends, i.e. they involve more rapidly increasing inequality when long-run inequality is increasing, and more rapidly decreasing inequality when long-run inequality is decreasing. In support of this prediction, we present evidence that during the first half of the 20th century when earnings inequality was generally declining, earnings disparities indeed appeared to fall more rapidly in downturns, at least among workers at the top of the earnings distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Barlevy, Gadi & Tsiddon, Daniel, 2004. "Earnings Inequality and the Business Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 4451, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4451
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    Cited by:

    1. Stéphane Bonhomme & Laura Hospido, 2012. "The cycle of earnings inequality: evidence from Spanish social security data," Working Papers 1225, Banco de España;Working Papers Homepage.
    2. ARATA Yoshiyuki, 2017. "A Functional Linear Regression Model in the Space of Probability Density Functions," Discussion papers 17015, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    3. Manthos D. Delis & Iftekhar Hasan & Pantelis Kazakis, 2014. "Bank Regulations and Income Inequality: Empirical Evidence," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 18(5), pages 1811-1846.
    4. Joanna Tyrowicz & Lucas Velde & Jan Svejnar, 2017. "Effects Of Labor Reallocation On Productivity And Inequality—Insights From Studies On Transition," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(3), pages 712-732, July.
    5. Peng, Fei & Kang, Lili, 2013. "Cyclical changes in the wage structure of the United Kingdom: a historical review of the GHS 1972-2002," MPRA Paper 47210, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Jonathan Heathcote & Fabrizio Perri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2010. "Unequal We Stand: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Inequality in the United States: 1967-2006," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(1), pages 15-51, January.
    7. Edmond, Chris & Veldkamp, Laura, 2009. "Income dispersion and counter-cyclical markups," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 791-804, September.
    8. Tom Krebs, 2006. "Multi-Dimensional Risk and the Cost of Business Cycles," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(4), pages 640-658, October.
    9. Bordo, Michael D. & Meissner, Christopher M., 2012. "Does inequality lead to a financial crisis?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 31(8), pages 2147-2161.
    10. Diana Alessandrini & Stephen Kosempel & Alessandra Pelloni & Thanasis Stengos, 2016. "Earnings inequality, the business cycle, and the life cycle," Working Papers 1602, University of Guelph, Department of Economics and Finance.
    11. SAITO Yukiko & KOUNO Toshiaki, 2012. "Rising Wage Inequality Within Firms: Evidence from Japanese health insurance society data," Discussion papers 12039, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    12. Gadi Barlevy, 2004. "On the timing of innovation in stochastic Schumpeterian growth models," Working Paper Series WP-04-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    13. Juan Guerra-Salas, 2016. "Fiscal Policy, Sectoral Allocation, and the Skill Premium: Explaining the Decline in Latin America’s Income Inequality," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 779, Central Bank of Chile.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    business cycles; great depression; human capital; income inequality; stochastic Ben Porath model; wage inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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