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Evaluating the Economic Significance of Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity

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  • Michael W. Elsby

Abstract

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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  • Michael W. Elsby, 2006. "Evaluating the Economic Significance of Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity," NBER Working Papers 12611, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12611
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    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts

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