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Capital-Task Complementarity and the Decline of the U.S. Labor Share of Income

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Abstract

This paper provides evidence that shifts in the occupational composition of the U.S. workforce are the most important factor explaining the trend decline in the labor share over the past four decades. Estimates suggest that while there is unitary elasticity between equipment capital and non-routine tasks, equipment capital and routine tasks are highly substitutable. Through the lenses of a general equilibrium model with occupational choice and the estimated production technology, I document that the fall in relative price of equipment capital alone can explain 72 percent of the observed decline in the U.S. labor share. In addition, I find that differences in labor share trends across sectors can be accounted for by varying sensitivities of cost of production to the price of equipment capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Musa Orak, 2017. "Capital-Task Complementarity and the Decline of the U.S. Labor Share of Income," International Finance Discussion Papers 1200, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgif:1200
    DOI: 10.17016/IFDP.2017.1200
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew Glover & Jacob Short, 2020. "Demographic Origins of the Decline in Labor's Share," BIS Working Papers 874, Bank for International Settlements.
    2. Goren, Amir, 2017. "Inequality and Production Elasticity," MPRA Paper 80316, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. vom Lehn, Christian, 2018. "Understanding the decline in the U.S. labor share: Evidence from occupational tasks," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 191-220.
    4. Castex, Gonzalo & (Stanley) Cho, Sang-Wook & Dechter, Evgenia, 2022. "The decline in capital-skill complementarity," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 138(C).
    5. Lecca, Patrizio & Persyn, Damiaan & Sakkas, Stelios, 2023. "Capital-skill complementarity and regional inequality: A spatial general equilibrium analysis," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C).
    6. Lee Ohanian & Musa Orak & Shihan Shen, 2023. "Revisiting Capital-Skill Complementarity, Inequality, and Labor Share," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 51, pages 479-505, December.
    7. Maya Eden & Paul Gaggl, 2019. "Capital Composition and the Declining Labor Share," CESifo Working Paper Series 7996, CESifo.
    8. Nida Çakır Melek & Musa Orak, 2021. "The Income Share of Energy and Substitution: A Macroeconomic Approach," Research Working Paper RWP 21-18, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Labor share; Technological change; Capital-task complementarity; Elasticity of substitution; Job polarization; Bayesian estimation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C11 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Bayesian Analysis: General
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • 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

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