IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Stepping Off the Wage Escalator: The Effects of Wage Growth on Equilibrium Employment

Listed author(s):
  • Michael W. L. Elsby
  • Matthew D. Shapiro

This paper emphasizes the role of wage growth in shaping work incentives. It provides an analytical framework for labor supply in the presence of a return to labor market experience and aggregate productivity growth. A key finding of the theory is that there is an interaction between these two forms of wage growth that explains why aggregate productivity growth can affect employment rates in steady state. The model thus speaks to an enduring puzzle in macroeconomics by uncovering a channel from the declines in trend aggregate wage growth that accompanied the productivity slowdown of the 1970s to persistent declines in employment. The paper also shows that the return to experience for high school dropouts has fallen substantially since the 1970s, which further contributes to the secular decline in employment rates. Taken together, the mechanisms identified in the paper can account for all of the increase in nonemployment among white male high school dropouts from 1968 to 2006. For all white males, it accounts for approximately one half of the increase in the aggregate nonemployment rate over the same period.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15117.

in new window

Date of creation: Jun 2009
Publication status: published as “Why Does Trend Growth Affect Equilibrium Employment? A New Explanation of an Old Puzzle” by Michael W.L. Elsby and Matthew D. Shapiro, American Economic Review 102(4) (2012) 1378–1413. PDF file, On-line Appendix, Data files. Previously circulated as "Stepping Off the Wage Escalator: The Effects of Wage Growth on Equilibrium Employment."
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15117
Contact details of provider: Postal:
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173.
  2. Lee, Chul-In, 2008. "On-the-job human capital investment and intertemporal substitution: New evidence on intertemporal substitution elasticity," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(10), pages 3350-3375, October.
  3. Blinder, Alan S & Weiss, Yoram, 1976. "Human Capital and Labor Supply: A Synthesis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(3), pages 449-472, June.
  4. Shaw, Kathryn L, 1989. "Life-Cycle Labor Supply with Human Capital Accumulation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 30(2), pages 431-456, May.
  5. Brooks Pierce, 2001. "Compensation Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1493-1525.
  6. Smith, James P & Welch, Finis R, 1989. "Black Economic Progress after Myrdal," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 519-564, June.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15117. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.