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The minimum wage and inequality - the effects of education and technology

  • Zsofia Barany

While there has been intense debate in the empirical literature about the effects of minimum wages on inequality in the US, its general equilibrium effects have been given little attention. In order to quantify the full effects of a decreasing minimum wage on inequality, I build a dynamic general equilibrium model, based on a two-sector growth model where the supply of high-skilled workers and the direction of technical change are endogenous. I find that a permanent reduction in the minimum wage leads to an expansion of low-skilled employment, which increases the incentives to acquire skills, thus changing the composition and size of high-skilled employment. These permanent changes in the supply of labour alter the investment flow into R&D, thereby decreasing the skill-bias of technology. The reduction in the minimum wage has spill-over effects on the entire distribution, affecting uppertail inequality. Through a calibration exercise, I find that a 30 percent reduction in the real value of the minimum wage, as in the early 1980s, accounts for 15 percent of the subsequent rise in the skill premium, 18.5 percent of the increase in overall inequality, 45 percent of the increase in inequality in the bottom half, and 7 percent of the rise in inequality at the top half of the wage distribution.

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Date of creation: Feb 2011
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Handle: RePEc:spo:wpmain:info:hdl:2441/eu4vqp9ompqllr09i8hjg0kpi
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  7. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," NBER Working Papers 8769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  13. Pinelopi K. Goldberg & Nina Pavcnik, 2004. "Trade, Inequality, and Poverty: What Do We Know? Evidence from Recent Trade Liberalization Episodes in Developing Countries," NBER Working Papers 10593, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Stephanie Schmitt-Grohe & Martin Uribe, 2001. "Solving Dynamic General Equilibrium Models Using a Second-Order Approximation to the Policy Function," Departmental Working Papers 200106, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  15. Winfried Koeniger & Marco Leonardi, 2007. "Capital deepening and wage differentials: Germany versus US," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 22, pages 71-116, 01.
  16. Alberto Alesina & Joseph Zeira, 2006. "Technology and Labor Regulations," NBER Working Papers 12581, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Alan B. Krueger & David Card, 2000. "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1397-1420, December.
  18. 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.
  19. Kiley, Michael T, 1999. "The Supply of Skilled Labour and Skill-Biased Technological Progress," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(458), pages 708-24, October.
  20. Brown, Charles & Gilroy, Curtis & Kohen, Andrew, 1982. "The Effect of the Minimum Wage on Employment and Unemployment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 487-528, June.
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  22. Richard Sutch, 2010. "The Unexpected Long-Run Impact of the Minimum Wage: An Educational Cascade," Working Papers 201001, University of California at Riverside, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2010.
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  25. Richard Sutch, 2010. "The Unexpected Long-Run Impact of the Minimum Wage: An Educational Cascade," NBER Working Papers 16355, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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