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What Do We Know About the Labor Share and the Profit Share? Part III: Measures and Structural Factors

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  • Olivier Giovannoni

Abstract

Economic theory frequently assumes constant factor shares and often treats the topic as secondary. We will show that this is a mistake by deriving the first high-frequency measure of the US labor share for the whole economy. We find that the labor share has held remarkably steady indeed, but that the quasi-stability masks a sizable composition effect that is detrimental to labor. The wage component is falling fast and the stability is achieved by an increasing share of benefits and top incomes. Using NIPA and Piketty-Saez top-income data, we estimate that the US bottom 99 percent labor share has fallen 15 points since 1980. This amounts to a transfer of $1.8 trillion from labor to capital in 2012 alone and brings the US labor share to its 1920s level. The trend is similar in Europe and Japan. The decrease is even larger when the CPI is used instead of the GDP deflator in the calculation of the labor share.

Suggested Citation

  • Olivier Giovannoni, 2014. "What Do We Know About the Labor Share and the Profit Share? Part III: Measures and Structural Factors," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_805, Levy Economics Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_805
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2015. "New Theoretical Perspectives on the Distribution of Income and Wealth among Individuals: Part I. The Wealth Residual," NBER Working Papers 21189, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Araujo, Ricardo Azevedo & Dávila-Fernández, Marwil J. & Moreira, Helmar Nunes, 2019. "Some new insights on the empirics of Goodwin's growth-cycle model," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 42-54.
    3. Alessandro Bellocchi, 2020. "Labor share is falling down, but which one?," Working Papers 2001, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Department of Economics, Society & Politics - Scientific Committee - L. Stefanini & G. Travaglini, revised 2020.
    4. McCloskey Deirdre Nansen, 2018. "The Two Movements in Economic Thought, 1700–2000: Empty Economic Boxes Revisited," Man and the Economy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-20, December.
    5. Fischer, Thomas, 2017. "Thomas Piketty and the rate of time preference," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 111-133.
    6. Zhi Luo & Guanghua Wan & Chen Wang & Xun Zhang, 2022. "The distributive impacts of the Belt and Road Initiative," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(3), pages 586-604, July.
    7. Bellocchi, Alessandro & Marin, Giovanni & Travaglini, Giuseppe, 2023. "The labor share puzzle: Empirical evidence for European countries," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 124(C).
    8. Hötte, Kerstin, 2023. "Demand-pull, technology-push, and the direction of technological change," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(5).
    9. Jacopo Di Domenico & Alberto Russo, 2022. "Innovation, growth, and productivity appropriation. How the elites learned to stop worrying and love public debt," Working Papers 2022/12, Economics Department, Universitat Jaume I, Castellón (Spain).
    10. Jingxian ZOU & Guangjun SHEN & Shen JIA, 2020. "How does labour share respond to risk? Theory and evidence from the Chinese industrial sector," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 159(2), pages 259-281, June.
    11. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2016. "The Theory of Credit and Macro-economic Stability," NBER Working Papers 22837, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Mertens, Matthias, 2022. "Micro-mechanisms behind declining labor shares: Rising market power and changing modes of production," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(C).
    13. Giacomo Gabbuti, 2018. "Labour Shares and Income Inequality: Insights from Italian Economic History, 1895-2015," HHB Working Papers Series 13, The Historical Household Budgets Project.
    14. Coveri, Andrea & Pianta, Mario, 2022. "Drivers of inequality: wages vs. profits in European industries," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 230-242.
    15. Mertens, Matthias, 2019. "Micro-mechanisms behind declining labour shares: Market power, production processes, and global competition," IWH-CompNet Discussion Papers 3/2019, Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH).
    16. Terranova, Roberta & Turco, Enrico M., 2022. "Concentration, stagnation and inequality: An agent-based approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 193(C), pages 569-595.
    17. Margarita Carvalho & João Cerejeira, 2019. "Financialization, Corporate Governance and Employee Pay: A Firm Level Analysis," NIPE Working Papers 08/2019, NIPE - Universidade do Minho.
    18. Olivier Giovannoni, 2014. "Income Distribution Macroeconomics," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_807, Levy Economics Institute.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Labor Share; Composition Effect; Income Inequality; Top Incomes; Purchasing Power;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D33 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Factor Income Distribution
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution

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