IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nzt/nztwps/00-16.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Economic Explanations of Earnings Distribution Trends in the International Literature and Application to New Zealand

Author

Listed:
  • Jeff Borland

Abstract

This report, commissioned by the Treasury, reviews the international and New Zealand evidence on trends in the distribution of earnings over the past 20 years. It assesses the international evidence on the strength of the various explanations for changes in the earnings distribution. It concludes with suggestions on how the trends in the earnings distribution in New Zealand might be further analysed. Considerable variation has occurred in trends in the distribution of earnings between industrialised economies, with English speaking countries showing the greatest increases in earnings inequalities, and European countries showing the least. The New Zealand evidence also shows a growth in earnings inequality, and indicates that this has been due to both growth in inequality in wage rates and in weekly hours of work. Trends in earnings inequalities together with changes in the distribution of employment appear to explain much of the movement in income inequality in New Zealand. The international literature has attributed changes in the distribution of earnings to labour supply side factors (eg, education, age, gender), demand side factors (eg, technological change, international trade), and institutional factors (eg, union effects, labour market regulation). The relative importance of these effects differs between countries. In the United States, where the most detailed analysis has taken place, about one third of the increase in overall earnings inequality can be explained by widening earnings differentials between education/experience groups; and another one-third by institutional factors, primarily declines in the value of minimum wages, and declines in union density. Possible (untested) explanations of the remaining increase include increasing returns to unobserved cognitive or inter-personal skills, and changing social norms. The evidence suggests that the growth in inequality between groups of workers with different levels of educational attainment and experience can be best explained by changes in the demand for and supply of skills. Changes in the relative demand for skill categories appear to be mainly explained by technological change.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeff Borland, 2000. "Economic Explanations of Earnings Distribution Trends in the International Literature and Application to New Zealand," Treasury Working Paper Series 00/16, New Zealand Treasury.
  • Handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:00/16
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/research-policy/wp/2000/00-16/twp00-16.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kevin M. Murphy & Finis Welch, 1992. "The Structure of Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 285-326.
    2. David Card, 1992. "The Effect of Unions on the Distribution of Wages: Redistribution or Relabelling?," NBER Working Papers 4195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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.
    4. Machin, Stephen, 1996. "Wage Inequality in the UK," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 47-64, Spring.
    5. Thomas F. Crossley, "undated". "Firms and Wages: Evidence from Displaced Workers," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 22, McMaster University.
    6. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen, 2000. "Understanding Increasing and Decreasing Wage Inequality," NBER Chapters,in: The Impact of International Trade on Wages, pages 227-268 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Blanchard, Olivier & Wolfers, Justin, 2000. "The Role of Shocks and Institutions in the Rise of European Unemployment: The Aggregate Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(462), pages 1-33, March.
    8. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J, 1996. "Reorganization of Firms and Labor-Market Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 315-321.
    9. Yellen, Janet L, 1984. "Efficiency Wage Models of Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 200-205, May.
    10. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1999. "Changing Inequality in Markets for Workplace Amenities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1085-1123.
    11. Steven J. Davis, 1992. "Cross-Country Patterns of Change in Relative Wages," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1992, Volume 7, pages 239-300 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Peter Gottschalk, 1997. "Inequality, Income Growth, and Mobility: The Basic Facts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 21-40, Spring.
    13. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2002. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization, and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 339-376.
    14. Bernard, Andrew B. & Jensen, J. Bradford, 1997. "Exporters, skill upgrading, and the wage gap," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 3-31, February.
    15. Susan N. Houseman & Katharine G. Abraham, 1995. "Earnings Inequality in Germany," Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers,in: Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz (ed.), Differences and Changes in Wage Structures, pages 371-403 W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    16. Eli Bekman & John Bound & Stephen Machin, 1998. "Implications of Skill-Biased Technological Change: International Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1245-1279.
    17. Krugman, Paul R., 2000. "Technology, trade and factor prices," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, pages 51-71.
    18. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1992. "On the Labor Market Effects of Immigration and Trade," NBER Chapters,in: Immigration and the Workforce: Economic Consequences for the United States and Source Areas, pages 213-244 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Stephen Nickell, 1997. "Unemployment and Labor Market Rigidities: Europe versus North America," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 55-74, Summer.
    20. Kevin M. Murphy & W. Craig Riddell & Paul M. Romer, 1998. "Wages, Skills, and Technology in the United States and Canada," NBER Working Papers 6638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Hanson, G.H. & Harrison, A., 1995. "Trade, Technology and Wage Inequality," Papers 95-20, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
    22. Griliches, Zvi, 1969. "Capital-Skill Complementarity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(4), pages 465-468, November.
    23. Cameron, Stephen V & Heckman, James J, 1993. "The Nonequivalence of High School Equivalents," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages 1-47, January.
    24. Mark Doms & Timothy Dunne & Kenneth R. Troske, 1997. "Workers, Wages, and Technology," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 253-290.
    25. James Peoples, 1998. "Deregulation and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 111-130, Summer.
    26. Gosling, Amanda & Machin, Stephen, 1995. "Trade Unions and the Dispersion of Earnings in British Establishments, 1980-90," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 57(2), pages 167-184, May.
    27. Richard B. Freeman & Karen Needels, 1993. "Skill Differentials in Canada in an Era of Rising Labor Market Inequality," NBER Chapters,in: Small Differences That Matter: Labor Markets and Income Maintenance in Canada and the United States, pages 45-68 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    28. Peter Kuhn (McMaster), "undated". "Labour Market Polarization: Canada in International Perspective," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 02, McMaster University.
    29. Robert J. LaLonde & Robert H. Topel, 1991. "Labor Market Adjustments to Increased Immigration," NBER Chapters,in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 167-199 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    30. Dennis J. Snower, 1998. "Causes of changing earnings inequality," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 69-133.
    31. David Marsden, 1995. "The Impact of Industrial Relations Practices on Employment and Unemployment," CEP Discussion Papers dp0240, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    32. Hammond, Peter J., 1999. "On f-core equivalence with general widespread externalities," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, pages 177-184.
    33. 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.
    34. Ernst R. Berndt & Catherine J. Morrison & Larry S. Rosenblum, 1992. "High-Tech Capital Formation and Labor Composition in U.S. Manufacturing Industries: An Exploratory Analysis," NBER Working Papers 4010, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    35. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1994. "The Growth of Earnings Instability in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 217-272.
    36. Farber, Henry S. & Levy, Helen, 2000. "Recent trends in employer-sponsored health insurance coverage: are bad jobs getting worse?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 93-119, January.
    37. David Card & Francis Kramarz & Thomas Lemieux, 1999. "Changes in the Relative Structure of Wages and Employment: A Comparison of the United States, Canada, and France," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 32(4), pages 843-877, August.
    38. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-266, May.
    39. Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "How Much Has De-Unionisation Contributed to the Rise in Male Earnings Inequality?," NBER Working Papers 3826, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    40. Chinhui Juhn, 1992. "Decline of Male Labor Market Participation: The Role of Declining Market Opportunities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 79-121.
    41. Edward E. Leamer, 1992. "Wage Effects of A U.S. - Mexican Free Trade Agreement," NBER Working Papers 3991, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    42. Robert E. Baldwin, 1995. "The Effects of Trade and Foreign Direct Investment on Employment and Relative Wages," OECD Jobs Study Working Papers 4, OECD Publishing.
    43. James Heckman & Lance Lochner & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Explaining Rising Wage Inequality: Explanations With A Dynamic General Equilibrium Model of Labor Earnings With Heterogeneous Agents," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(1), pages 1-58, January.
    44. Jonathan E. Haskel & Matthew J. Slaughter, 1998. "Does the Sector Bias of Skill-Biased Technical Change Explain Changing Wage Inequality?," NBER Working Papers 6565, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    45. Sachs, Jeffrey D & Shatz, Howard J, 1996. "U.S. Trade with Developing Countries and Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 234-239, May.
    46. Lawrence F. Katz & Gary W. Loveman & David G. Blanchflower, 1995. "A Comparison of Changes in the Structure of Wages in Four OECD Countries," NBER Chapters,in: Differences and Changes in Wage Structures, pages 25-66 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    47. Lang, Kevin, 1998. "The Effect of Trade Liberalization on Wages and Employment: The Case of New Zealand," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(4), pages 792-814, October.
    48. 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.
    49. Borland, Jeff, 1999. "Earnings Inequality in Australia: Changes, Causes and Consequences," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, pages 177-202.
    50. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1996. "With What Skills Are Computers a Complement?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 258-262, May.
    51. Leora Friedberg, 2003. "The Impact of Technological Change on Older Workers: Evidence from Data on Computer Use," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(3), pages 511-529, April.
    52. Wood Júnior, Thomaz, 1995. "Workers," RAE - Revista de Administração de Empresas, FGV-EAESP Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo (Brazil), vol. 35(2), March.
    53. Matthew J. Slaughter, 1998. "What Are the Results of Product-Price Studies and What Can We Learn From Their Differences?," NBER Working Papers 6591, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    54. Christopher Erickson & Andrea Ichino, 1995. "Wage Differentials in Italy: Market Forces, Institutions, and Inflation," NBER Chapters,in: Differences and Changes in Wage Structures, pages 265-306 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    55. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-1381, September.
    56. Edward E. Leamer, 1994. "Trade, Wages and Revolving Door Ideas," NBER Working Papers 4716, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    57. Davis, Donald R, 1998. "Does European Unemployment Prop Up American Wages? National Labor Markets and Global Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 478-494, June.
    58. Richard B. Freeman, 1995. "Are Your Wages Set in Beijing?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 15-32, Summer.
    59. Paul R. Krugman, 1994. "Past and prospective causes of high unemployment," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Jan, pages 49-98.
    60. George E. Johnson, 1997. "Changes in Earnings Inequality: The Role of Demand Shifts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 41-54, Spring.
    61. Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1995. "Differences and Changes in Wage Structures," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free95-1, January.
    62. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-442, June.
    63. Friedberg, Leora, 1999. "The Impact of Technological Change on Older Workers: Evidence from Data on Computers," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt1s97n77x, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
    64. Blau, Francine D & Kahn, Lawrence M, 1996. "International Differences in Male Wage Inequality: Institutions versus Market Forces," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(4), pages 791-836, August.
    65. Preston, Alison, 1997. "Where Are We Now with Human Capital Theory in Australia?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 73(220), pages 51-78, March.
    66. Rose, Nancy L, 1987. "Labor Rent Sharing and Regulation: Evidence from the Trucking Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(6), pages 1146-1178, December.
    67. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213.
    68. Gregory, Robert G. & Borland, Jeff, 1999. "Recent developments in public sector labor markets," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 53, pages 3573-3630 Elsevier.
    69. Paul Beaudry & David Green, 1998. "What is Driving US and Canadian Wages: Exogenous Technical Change or Endogenous Choice of Technique?," NBER Working Papers 6853, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    70. Deardorff, Alan V. & Staiger, Robert W., 1988. "An interpretation of the factor content of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1-2), pages 93-107, February.
    71. Adrian Wood, 1995. "How Trade Hurt Unskilled Workers," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 57-80, Summer.
    72. David Card, 1986. "The Impact of Deregulation on the Employment and Wages of Airline Mechanics," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 39(4), pages 527-538, July.
    73. Edward E. Leamer, 1996. "In Search of Stolper-Samuelson Effects on U.S. Wages," NBER Working Papers 5427, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    74. repec:fth:prinin:402 is not listed on IDEAS
    75. Nickell, Stephen & Bell, Brian, 1995. "The Collapse in Demand for the Unskilled and Unemployment across the OECD," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 40-62, Spring.
    76. Peter Gottschalk & Mary Joyce, 1998. "Cross-National Differences In The Rise In Earnings Inequality: Market And Institutional Factors," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(4), pages 489-502, November.
    77. Randall Filer, 1992. "The Effect of Immigrant Arrivals on Migratory Patterns of Native Workers," NBER Chapters,in: Immigration and the Workforce: Economic Consequences for the United States and Source Areas, pages 245-270 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    78. Katz, Lawrence F. & Revenga, Ana L., 1989. "Changes in the structure of wages: The United States vs Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 522-553, December.
    79. Bresnahan, Timothy F, 1999. "Computerisation and Wage Dispersion: An Analytical Reinterpretation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(456), pages 390-415, June.
    80. Topel, Robert H, 1994. "Regional Labor Markets and the Determinants of Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 17-22, May.
    81. Erica L. Groshen, 1991. "Sources of Intra-Industry Wage Dispersion: How Much Do Employers Matter?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(3), pages 869-884.
    82. David Card, 1998. "Falling Union Membership and Rising Wage Inequality: What's the Connection?," NBER Working Papers 6520, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    83. Doiron, Denise J & Barrett, Garry F, 1996. "Inequality in Male and Female Earnings: The Role of Hours and Wages," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(3), pages 410-420, August.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Weshah A. Razzak & Jason C. Timmins, 2008. "A Macroeconomic Perspective On Skill Shortages And The Skill Premium In New Zealand ," Australian Economic Papers, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1), pages 74-91, March.
    2. John K Gibson & Grant M Scobie, 2001. "Household Saving Behaviour in New Zealand: A Cohort Analysis," Treasury Working Paper Series 01/18, New Zealand Treasury.

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:00/16. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Web and Publishing Team, The Treasury). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/tregvnz.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.