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Declining Labor Shares and the Global Rise of Corporate Saving

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  • Loukas Karabarbounis
  • Brent Neiman

Abstract

The stability of the labor share is a key foundation in macroeconomic models. We document, however, that the global labor share has significantly declined over the last 30 years. This decline was associated with a significant increase in corporate saving, generally the largest component of national saving. We relate the labor share to corporate saving empirically and theoretically using a model featuring CES production and imperfections in the flow of funds between households and corporations. These two departures from the standard neoclassical model imply that the labor share fluctuates and that corporate saving affects macroeconomic allocations. We argue that it is important to study the labor share and corporate saving jointly, and offer a unified explanation for their trends. A global decline in the cost of capital beginning around 1980 induced firms to shift away from labor and toward capital, financed in part with an increase in corporate saving.

Suggested Citation

  • Loukas Karabarbounis & Brent Neiman, 2012. "Declining Labor Shares and the Global Rise of Corporate Saving," NBER Working Papers 18154, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18154
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G35 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Payout Policy

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