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Decomposing Wage Inequality Change Using General Equilibrium Models

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  • Lisandro Abrego
  • John Whalley

Abstract

This paper presents ex post decomposition analysis of wage inequality change using multi-sector general equilibrium models. The analytical structure used is a specific- factors model of trade, which we calibrate to UK data for the two years 1979 and 1975. We first calibrate our general equilibrium trade model to observations on wage inequality, trade, production and consumption spanning these years, capturing the separate influences of trade, technology and demographics on inequality. Between these years wage inequality changed, but multiple changes in exogenous variables occurred (world prices, technology, endowments). We use calibration techniques to determine parameter values consistent with both the equilibria and the changes in exogenous variables contributing to the wage inequality change being decomposed. We then compute counterfactual equilibria in which only some of the changes in exogenous variables are present to allow us to assess what portion of the observed change is attributable to the various contributing factors. Our findings are that the roles of trade and factor-biased technological change are relatively larger than in earlier literature. We also find that changes in factor endowments to offset increased inequality generated by trade and skilled-biased technological changes, a feature that seems to have gone relatively unnoticed in earlier literature.

Suggested Citation

  • Lisandro Abrego & John Whalley, 2002. "Decomposing Wage Inequality Change Using General Equilibrium Models," NBER Working Papers 9184, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9184
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nicole M. Fortin & Thomas Lemieux, 1997. "Institutional Changes and Rising Wage Inequality: Is There a Linkage?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 75-96, Spring.
    2. Mussa, Michael, 1974. "Tariffs and the Distribution of Income: The Importance of Factor Specificity, Substitutability, and Intensity in the Short and Long Run," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1191-1203, Nov.-Dec..
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    5. Krugman, Paul R., 2000. "Technology, trade and factor prices," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 51-71, February.
    6. Francois, Joseph F & Nelson, Douglas, 1998. "Trade, Technology, and Wages: General Equilibrium Mechanics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(450), pages 1483-1499, September.
    7. Haskel, Jonathan & Slaughter, Matthew J, 2001. "Trade, Technology and U.K. Wage Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(468), pages 163-187, January.
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    9. Dawkins, Christina & Srinivasan, T.N. & Whalley, John, 2001. "Calibration," Handbook of Econometrics,in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 58, pages 3653-3703 Elsevier.
    10. R. E. Baldwin & G. G. Cain, "undated". "Shifts in U.S. Relative Wages: The Role of Trade, Technology, and Factor Endowments," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1132-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    11. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Howard J. Shatz, 1994. "Trade and Jobs in Manufacturing," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(1), pages 1-84.
    12. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
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    15. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U. S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-397.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hui Huang & John Whalley, 2003. "The Use of Literature Based Elasticity Estimates in Calibrated Models of Trade-Wage Decompositions: A Calibmetric Approach," NBER Working Papers 10137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • D5 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium

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