IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Real wage cyclicality and the Great Depression: evidence from British engineering and metal working firms


  • Hart, Robert A
  • Roberts, J Elizabeth


Based on firm‐level payroll data from around 2000 member firms of the British Engineering Employers' Federation we examine the behavior of real hourly earnings over the 1927‐1937 cycle that contained the Great Depression. The pay statistics are based on adult male blue‐collar workers within engineering and metal working firms. They allow us to distinguish between pieceworkers and timeworkers and they are delineated by 14 occupations and 51 travel‐to‐work geographical engineering districts. We measure the cycle using national unemployment rates as well as rates that match our district breakdowns. Differences are found in the real hourly earnings cyclicality of pieceworkers and timeworkers. We attempt to relate our findings to those of modern micro panel data studies of real wage cyclicality. We offer some insight into why the estimates of real hourly pay display less procyclicality during the 1920s and 1930s than in studies based on more recent data.

Suggested Citation

  • Hart, Robert A & Roberts, J Elizabeth, 2011. "Real wage cyclicality and the Great Depression: evidence from British engineering and metal working firms," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2011-09, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:stl:stledp:2011-09

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Keser, Claudia & Ehrhart, Karl-Martin & Berninghaus, Siegfried K., 1998. "Coordination and local interaction: experimental evidence," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 269-275, March.
    2. repec:eee:ecomod:v:221:y:2010:i:22:p:2675-2686 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Charles R. Plott, 1997. "Laboratory Experimental Testbeds: Application to the PCS Auction," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(3), pages 605-638, September.
    4. Cassar, Alessandra, 2007. "Coordination and cooperation in local, random and small world networks: Experimental evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 209-230, February.
    5. Parkhurst, Gregory M. & Shogren, Jason F. & Bastian, Chris & Kivi, Paul & Donner, Jennifer & Smith, Rodney B. W., 2002. "Agglomeration bonus: an incentive mechanism to reunite fragmented habitat for biodiversity conservation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 305-328, May.
    6. Straub, Paul G., 1995. "Risk dominance and coordination failures in static games," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 339-363.
    7. Ulrich Schwalbe & Siegfried K. Berninghaus, 1996. "Conventions, local interaction, and automata networks," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 297-312.
    8. Jordi Brandts & David Cooper, 2006. "Observability and overcoming coordination failure in organizations: An experimental study," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 9(4), pages 407-423, December.
    9. Mark Stewart, 2006. "Maximum simulated likelihood estimation of random-effects dynamic probit models with autocorrelated errors," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 6(2), pages 256-272, June.
    10. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    11. Parkhurst, Gregory M. & Shogren, Jason F., 2007. "Spatial incentives to coordinate contiguous habitat," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 344-355, December.
    12. Warziniack, Travis & Shogren, Jason F. & Parkhurst, Gregory, 2007. "Creating contiguous forest habitat: An experimental examination on incentives and communication," Journal of Forest Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2-3), pages 191-207, August.
    13. John Huyck & Raymond Battalio & Frederick Rankin, 2007. "Evidence on learning in coordination games," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(3), pages 205-220, September.
    14. John Rolfe & Jill Windle & Juliana McCosker, 2009. "Testing and Implementing the Use of Multiple Bidding Rounds in Conservation Auctions: A Case Study Application," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 57(3), pages 287-303, September.
    15. Simon Weidenholzer, 2010. "Coordination Games and Local Interactions: A Survey of the Game Theoretic Literature," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 1(4), pages 1-35, November.
    16. John B. Van Huyck & Raymond C. Battalio & Richard O. Beil, 1991. "Strategic Uncertainty, Equilibrium Selection, and Coordination Failure in Average Opinion Games," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(3), pages 885-910.
    17. Alós-Ferrer, Carlos & Weidenholzer, Simon, 2008. "Contagion and efficiency," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 143(1), pages 251-274, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


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

    Cited by:

    1. Robert A. Hart & J. Elizabeth Roberts, 2013. "Industrial Composition, Methods of Compensation and Real Earnings in the Great Depression," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 226(1), pages 17-29, November.
    2. Hart, Robert A & Roberts, J Elizabeth, 2013. "The rise and fall of piecework-timework wage differentials: market volatility, labor heterogeneity, and output pricing," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2013-12, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.

    More about this item


    Real wage cyclicality; the Great Depression; piecework; timework; aggregation bias;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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:stl:stledp:2011-09. 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: (Liam Delaney). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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.