The Impact of Macroeconomic Conditions on the Instability and Long-Run Inequality of Workers' Earnings in Canada
This paper examines the variability of workers' earnings in Canada over the period 1982-1997 and how earnings variability has varied in terms of the unemployment rate and real gross domestic product (GDP) growth over this period. Using a large panel of tax file data, we decompose total variation in earnings across workers and time into a long-run inequality component between workers and an average earnings instability component over time for workers. The analysis is done for men and women and for both long-run participants and a broad coverage of workers. We find an increase in earnings variability between 1982-1989 and 1990-1997 that is largely confined to men and largely driven by widening long-run earnings inequality. Second, the pattern of unemployment rate and GDP growth rate effects on these variance components is not consistent with conventional explanations of cyclical effects on earnings inequality and is suggestive of an alternative paradigm of how economic growth over this period widens long-run earnings inequality. Third, when the unemployment rate and GDP growth rate effects are considered jointly, macroeconomic improvement is found to reduce the overall variability of earnings as the reduction in earnings instability outweighs the general widening of long-run earnings inequality.
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