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Real Wages Over The Business Cycle

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  • Robert B. Barsky
  • Gary Solon

Abstract

This paper is an examination of cyclical real wage behavior in the United States since World War II. Like most previous aggregate studies. ours finds little cyclicalitv in aggregate industry real wage data. On the other hand, our analysis of longitudinal microdata from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics reveals substantial procyclicality. We find that this procyclicality is obscured in industry average wage statistics, and to a lesser extent in economywide averages, because those statistics are constructed in a way that gives greater weight to low-wage workers during expansions. The almost complete absence of evidence for countercyclical real wages suggests that movements along labor demand curves have not played a dominant role in cyclical employment fluctuations over the last 40 years. Instead, the procyclicality of real wages indicates that cyclical employment fluctuations have been generated mainly by shifts in labor demand. The sources of these shifts and of the positive slope of the effective labor supply curve, however, remain open to alternative interpretations.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert B. Barsky & Gary Solon, 1989. "Real Wages Over The Business Cycle," NBER Working Papers 2888, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2888
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    Cited by:

    1. Raven E. Saks & Abigail Wozniak, 2011. "Labor Reallocation over the Business Cycle: New Evidence from Internal Migration," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(4), pages 697-739.
    2. Philip Oreopoulos & Till von Wachter & Andrew Heisz, 2006. "The Short- and Long-Term Career Effects of Graduating in a Recession: Hysteresis and Heterogeneity in the Market for College Graduates," NBER Working Papers 12159, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    6. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1989. "Building Blocks of Market Clearing Business Cycle Models," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 247-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Kandil, Magda, 2007. "The wage-price spiral: International evidence and implications," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 212-240.
    8. Gary Solon & Robert Barsky & Jonathan A. Parker, 1994. "Measuring the Cyclicality of Real Wages: How Important is Composition Bias?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(1), pages 1-25.
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    16. Shin Donggyun, 2012. "Cyclicality of Real Wages in Korea," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(1), pages 1-19, January.
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