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Cross-Country Inequality Trends

  • Daron Acemoglu

The economics profession has made considerable progress in understanding the increase in wage inequality in the U.S. and the UK over the past several decades, but currently lacks a consensus on why inequality did not increase, or increased much less, in (continental) Europe over the same time period. I review the two most popular explanations for these differential trends: that relative supply of skills increased faster in Europe, and that European labor market institutions prevented inequality from increasing. I argue that these two explanations go some way towards accounting for the differential cross-country inequality trends, but do not provide an entirely satisfactory explanation. In addition, it appears that relative demand for skills increased differentially across countries. Motivated by this reasoning, I develop a simple theory where labor market institutions creating wage compression in Europe also encourage more investment in technologies increasing the productivity of less-skilled workers, thus implying less skill-biased technical change in Europe than in the U.S.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8832.

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Date of creation: Mar 2002
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Publication status: published as Acemoglu, Daron. "Cross-Country Inequality Trends," Economic Journal, 2003, v113(485,Feb), F121-F149.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8832
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