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This Time is Not so Different: Income Dynamics During the COVID-19 Recession

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  • Brian D. Bell
  • Nicholas Bloom
  • Jack Blundell

Abstract

We use a UK employer-employee administrative earnings dataset to investigate the response of earnings and hours to business cycles. Exploiting our long panel of data from 1975 to 2020 we find wide heterogeneity in the exposure of different types of workers to aggregate shocks. Employees who are younger, male, lower-skilled, non-union, and working in smaller private sector firms show the largest earnings response to recessions. The qualitative patterns of earnings changes across workers observed in the COVID-19 recession are broadly as predicted using the previously estimated exposures and size of the GDP shock. This suggests the COVID-19 recession in terms of its impact responses was relatively similar to those that have gone before, but the GDP shock was far larger in absolute size. Compared to aggregate shocks, we find a relatively small role of firm-specific shocks, suggesting macro shocks play an outsized role in individual earnings dynamics.

Suggested Citation

  • Brian D. Bell & Nicholas Bloom & Jack Blundell, 2021. "This Time is Not so Different: Income Dynamics During the COVID-19 Recession," NBER Working Papers 28871, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:28871
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    2. Carter, Colin A. & Steinbach, Sandro & Zhuang, Xiting, 2022. "Global Shipping Container Disruptions and U.S. Agricultural Exports," Working Papers 320397, International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium.
    3. Silvia Sarpietro & Yuya Sasaki & Yulong Wang, 2022. "How Unequally Heavy Are the Tails of the Distributions of Income Growth?," Papers 2203.08014, arXiv.org.

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