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Income-Driven Labor-Market Polarization

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Abstract

We propose a mechanism for labor-market polarization based on the nonhomotheticity of demand that we call the income-driven channel. Our mechanism builds on a novel empirical fact: expenditure elasticities and production intensities in low- and high-skill occupations are positively correlated across sectors. Thus, as income grows, demand shifts towards expenditure-elastic sectors, and the relative demand for low- and high-skill occupations increases, causing labor-market polarization. A calibrated general-equilibrium model suggests this mechanism accounts for 90% and 35% of the increase in the wage-bill share of low- and high-skill occupations observed in the US during 1980-2016, and for 64% and 28% of the rise in the employment shares of low- and high-skill occupations. This mechanism is similarly important for the polarization of labor markets in Western Europe during 1980-2016, as well as in the US during earlier decades and, possibly, the near future.

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  • Diego Comin & Ana Danieli & Martí Mestieri, 2020. "Income-Driven Labor-Market Polarization," Working Paper Series WP-2020-22, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:92692
    DOI: 10.21033/wp-2020-22
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    2. David Autor & Caroline Chin & Anna Salomons & Bryan Seegmiller, 2022. "New frontiers: The origins and content of new work, 1940-2018," POID Working Papers 049, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    3. Gilles Saint-Paul, 2023. "The educated class and the fragility of consumer society," PSE Working Papers halshs-04129252, HAL.
    4. Dilip Mookherjee & Debraj Ray, 2022. "Growth, Automation and the Long-Run Share of Labor," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 46, pages 1-26, October.
    5. Dalmazzo, Alberto & de Blasio, Guido & Poy, Samuele, 2022. "Can Public Housing Trigger Industrialization?," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(C).
    6. Gillman, Max, 2021. "Steps in industrial development through human capital deepening," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 99(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Labor-market polarization; Nonhomothetic Demand;

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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