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Firms' Heterogeneity in Capital/Labor Ratios and Wage Inequality

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  • Leonardi, Marco

    (London School of Economics and IZA)

Abstract

This paper provides some empirical evidence and a theory of the relationship between residual wage inequality and the increasing dispersion of capital/labor ratios across firms. I document the increasing variance of capital/labor ratios across firms in the US labor market using Compustat data. I also show that the increase in the variance of capital/labor ratios across firms is related to the increasing variance of wages. To explain these empirical regularities I adopt a search model where firms differ in their optimal composition of capital between equipment and structure. As the relative price of equipment falls over time the distribution of capital/labor ratios becomes more dispersed across firms. In a frictional labor market this force generates wage dispersion among identical workers. In the model the increase in wage inequality is due only to job changers as they are randomly matched to an increasingly wide variety of jobs (capital/labor ratio). This feature of the model is consistent with recent evidence that indicates that the bulk of the increase in wage inequality took place between plants rather than within plants. Simple estimation of the model indicates that the dispersion of capital/labor ratios can explain up to one half of the total increase in residual wage inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Leonardi, Marco, 2003. "Firms' Heterogeneity in Capital/Labor Ratios and Wage Inequality," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2003 136, Royal Economic Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecj:ac2003:136
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Julian Emami Namini & Giovanni Facchini & Ricardo A. Lopez, 2011. "Export Growth and Factor Market Competition: Theory and Evidence," Development Working Papers 309, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano, revised 09 May 2011.
    2. Keiko Ito & Sébastien Lechevalier, 2009. "The evolution of the productivity dispersion of firms: a reevaluation of its determinants in the case of Japan," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 145(3), pages 405-429, October.
    3. Silvio Contessi & Pierangelo De Pace, 2011. "The (non-)resiliency of foreign direct investment in the United States during the 2007-2009 financial crisis," Working Papers 2011-037, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    4. Yannick Kalantzis & Ryo Kambayashi & Sébastien Lechevalier, 2012. "Wage and Productivity Differentials in Japan: The Role of Labor Market Mechanisms," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 26(4), pages 514-541, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    wage inequality; capital intensity; search models;

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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