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Labour Market Reforms and Changes in Wage Inequality in the United Kingdom and the United States

  • Amanda Gosling
  • Thomas Lemieux

This paper compares trends in male and female hourly wage inequality in the United Kingdom and the United States between 1979 and 1998. Our main finding is that the extent and pattern of wage inequality became increasingly similar in the two countries during this period. We attribute this convergence to 'U.S. style' reforms in the U.K. labour market. In particular, we argue that the much steeper decline in unionisation in the United Kingdom explains why inequality increased faster than in the United States. For women, we conclude that the fall and subsequent recovery in the real value of the U.S. minimum wage explains why wage inequality increased faster in the United States than in the United Kingdom during the 1980s, while the opposite happened during the 1990s. Interestingly, the introduction of the National Minimum Wage in the U.K. in 1999 also contributed to the convergence in labour market institutions and wage inequality between the two countries.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8413.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8413.

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Date of creation: Aug 2001
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Publication status: published as Labor Market Reforms and Changes in Wage Inequality in the United Kingdom and the United States , Amanda Gosling, Thomas Lemieux. in Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms, 1980-2000 , Card, Blundell, and Freeman. 2004
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8413
Note: LS
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  1. Amanda Gosling & Stephen Machin & Costas Meghir, 1994. "The changing distribution of male wages in the UK," IFS Working Papers W94/13, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  2. Dinardo, J. & Fortin, N.M. & Lemieux, T., 1994. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Cahiers de recherche 9406, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en ├ęconomie quantitative, CIREQ.
  3. Amanda Gosling & Stephen Machin, 1994. "Trade Unions and the Dispersion of Earnings in British Establishments, 1980-90," NBER Working Papers 4732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Stewart, Mark B, 1983. "Relative Earnings and Individual Union Membership in the United Kingdom," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 50(198), pages 111-25, May.
  5. Francine D. Blau, 1997. "Trends in the Well-Being of American Women, 1970-1995," NBER Working Papers 6206, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Paul Beaudry & David A. Green, 2003. "Wages and Employment in the United States and Germany: What Explains the Differences?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 573-602, June.
  8. David S. Lee, 1999. "Wage Inequality in the United States During the 1980s: Rising Dispersion or Falling Minimum Wage?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 977-1023.
  9. Machin, Stephen, 1996. "Wage Inequality in the UK," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 47-64, Spring.
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