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Evaluating the Economic Significance of Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity

  • Michael W. Elsby

This paper formalizes and assesses empirically the implications of widely observed evidence for downward nominal wage rigidity (DNWR). It shows how a model of DNWR informed by diverse evidence for worker resistance to nominal wage cuts is nevertheless consistent with weak macroeconomic effects. This occurs because firms have an incentive to compress wage increases as well as wage cuts when DNWR binds. By neglecting potential compression of wage increases, the previous literature may have overstated the costs of DNWR to firms. Using a broad range of micro--data from the US and Great Britain I find that firms do indeed compress wage increases as well as wage cuts at times when DNWR binds. Accounting for this reduces the estimated increase in aggregate wage growth due to DNWR to be much closer to zero, consistent with the predictions of the model. These results suggest that DNWR may not provide a strong argument against the targeting of low inflation rates, as practiced by many monetary authorities. Importantly, though, this result is nevertheless consistent with evidence that suggests workers are averse to nominal wage cuts.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12611.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Elsby, Michael W.L., 2009. "Evaluating the economic significance of downward nominal wage rigidity," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 154-169, March.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12611
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