IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/ehl/lserod/62587.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Firming up inequality

Author

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

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

  • Song, Jae & Price, David J. & Guvenen, Fatih & Bloom, Nick, 2015. "Firming up inequality," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 62587, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:62587
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/62587/
    File Function: Open access version.
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Gruetter, Max & Lalive, Rafael, 2009. "The importance of firms in wage determination," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 149-160, April.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Barth, Erling & Bryson, Alex & Davis, James C. & Freeman, Richard, 2014. "It’s where you work: increases in earnings dispersion across establishments and individuals in the US," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 60604, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Matthew Smith & Danny Yagan & Owen M. Zidar & Eric Zwick, 2019. "Capitalists in the Twenty-First Century," NBER Working Papers 25442, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. 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.
    12. repec:aea:aejmac:v:10:y:2018:i:1:p:149-89 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
    17. Robert Kaestner & Darren Lubotsky, 2016. "Health Insurance and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 53-78, Spring.
    18. 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.
    19. 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.
    20. 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.
    21. 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)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Inequality; productivity and firms;

    JEL classification:

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

    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:ehl:lserod:62587. 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: (LSERO Manager). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/lsepsuk.html .

    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 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.

    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.