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Comparing Real Wage Rates

  • Orley Ashenfelter

    (Princeton University)

A real wage rate is a nominal wage rate divided by the price of a good and is a transparent measure of how much of the good an hour of work buys. It provides an important indicator of the living standards of workers, and also of the productivity of workers. In this paper I set out the conceptual basis for such measures, provide some historical examples, and then provide my own preliminary analysis of a decade long project designed to measure the wages of workers doing the same job in over 60 countries workers at McDonald’s restaurants. The results demonstrate that the wage rates of workers using the same skills and doing the same jobs differ by as much as 10 to 1, and that these gaps declined over the period 2000-2007, but with much less progress since the Great Recession.

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File URL: http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01t435gd01h
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Paper provided by Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section. in its series Working Papers with number 1384.

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Date of creation: Mar 2012
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Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:dsp01t435gd01h
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  1. Robert C. Allen & Jean‐Pascal Bassino & Debin Ma & Christine Moll‐Murata & Jan Luiten Van Zanden, 2011. "Wages, prices, and living standards in China, 1738–1925: in comparison with Europe, Japan, and India," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64(s1), pages 8-38, February.
  2. Lutz Hendricks, 2002. "How Important Is Human Capital for Development? Evidence from Immigrant Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 198-219, March.
  3. Abbott, Michael & Ashenfelter, Orley, 1976. "Labour Supply, Commodity Demand and the Allocation of Time," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(3), pages 389-411, October.
  4. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "Wages, Prices, and Living Standards in China, Japan, and Europe, 1738-1925," Economics Series Working Papers 316, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  5. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Price Indexes, Inequality, and the Measurement of World Poverty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 5-34, March.
  6. Albert Rees, 1961. "Real Wages in Manufacturing, 1890-1914," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number rees61-1, December.
  7. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "How Prosperous were the Romans? Evidence from Diocletian`s Price Edict (301 AD)," Economics Series Working Papers 363, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  8. Allen, Robert C., 2011. "Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199596652, March.
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