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Union-Nonunion Wage Differentials and Macroeconomic Activity

Listed author(s):
  • Bradley Ewing


  • Phanindra Wunnava


This research is concerned with identifying the differing responses of union and nonunion wages to shocks to real output growth, inflation, and the stance of monetary policy. Aggregate measures of union and nonunion wages and salaries are used to construct a time series of the wage differential for several major industrial sectors over the 1976-2001 period. The literature documents the existence of a union wage premium; however, previously the focus has primarily been at the micro-level, and on whether or not a union worker receives greater compensation than an otherwise comparable nonunion worker [e.g., Wunnava and Ewing (1999, 2000)]. Research also links the wage differential to the stage of the business cycle [Wunnava and Okunade 1996] and to the industrial sector [Okunade, Wunnava, and Robinson (1992)]. Theoretical macroeconomic models imply that wages will respond in certain ways to unanticipated changes in aggregate measures of economic activity [e.g., Romer (1996)]. Given the differences in compensation level of union and nonunion workers, and the link to the stage of the business cycle and industry, it is expected that the aggregate wage differentials both for the entire private sector and by industry will respond to macroeconomic shocks in a predictable manner. The relationship among these wage differentials and the macroeconomy is examined in the context of a vector autoregression. In addition, the paper employs the newly developed technique of generalized impulse response analysis [Koop, et al. (1996), Pesaran and Shin (1998)], a method that does not impose a priori restrictions on the relative importance that each of the macroeconomic variables may play in the transmission process. The results show the extent and the magnitude of the relationship between the union-nonunion wage differentials and several key macroeconomic factors. Finally, the paper documents how the responses of these wage differentials vary by industrial sector.

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Paper provided by Middlebury College, Department of Economics in its series Middlebury College Working Paper Series with number 0231.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2002
Handle: RePEc:mdl:mdlpap:0231
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  1. Peter C.B. Phillips & Pierre Perron, 1986. "Testing for a Unit Root in Time Series Regression," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 795R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Sep 1987.
  2. Thorbecke, Willem, 1997. " On Stock Market Returns and Monetary Policy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(2), pages 635-654, June.
  3. Runkle, David E, 1987. "Vector Autoregressions and Reality," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 5(4), pages 437-442, October.
  4. David E. Runkle, 1987. "Vector autoregressions and reality," Staff Report 107, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. Pesaran, H. Hashem & Shin, Yongcheol, 1998. "Generalized impulse response analysis in linear multivariate models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 17-29, January.
  6. Bernanke, Ben S & Blinder, Alan S, 1992. "The Federal Funds Rate and the Channels of Monetary Transmission," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 901-921, September.
  7. Ewing, Bradley T., 2001. "Cross-Effects of Fundamental State Variables," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 633-645, October.
  8. Dickey, David A & Fuller, Wayne A, 1981. "Likelihood Ratio Statistics for Autoregressive Time Series with a Unit Root," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 1057-1072, June.
  9. Phillips, P C B, 1987. "Time Series Regression with a Unit Root," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 277-301, March.
  10. David Neumark & Michael L. Wachter, 1995. "Union Effects on Nonunion Wages: Evidence from Panel Data on Industries and Cities," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 49(1), pages 20-38, October.
  11. Park, Kwangwoo & Ratti, Ronald A, 2000. "Real Activity, Inflation, Stock Returns, and Monetary Policy," The Financial Review, Eastern Finance Association, vol. 35(2), pages 59-77, May.
  12. Okunade, Albert Ade. & Wunnava, Phanindra V. & Robinson, Michael D., 1992. "Union-nonunion compensation differentials and industry structure," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 329-337, July.
  13. Rees, Albert, 1989. "The Economics of Trade Unions," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226707105, Summer.
  14. James G. MacKinnon, 1990. "Critical Values for Cointegration Tests," Working Papers 1227, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  15. Strongin, Steven, 1995. "The identification of monetary policy disturbances explaining the liquidity puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 463-497, June.
  16. Wachter, Michael L, 1986. "Union Wage Rigidity: The Default Settings of Labor Law," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 240-244, May.
  17. Koop, Gary & Pesaran, M. Hashem & Potter, Simon M., 1996. "Impulse response analysis in nonlinear multivariate models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 119-147, September.
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