IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

The American Wage Structure 1920-1947

Listed author(s):
  • Thomas Ferguson

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)

  • James K. Galbraith

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)

Registered author(s):

    Impressed by the sweeping implications of the mind-body problem, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenauer referred to that famous conundrum as the Weltknoten, the "World Knot." Economic history is more prosaic. Yet the economic experience of the United States between World War I and the end of World War II did generate one problem with nearly so sweeping repercussions in its field: the behavior of wages. This period spans the slump following World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the New Deal and World War II – times of turmoil encompassing every form of economic, technological, political and social change. Studies of wage determination during this time can therefore illuminate many competing hypotheses, perhaps more effectively than studies of the more-tranquil postwar period. Such inquiries also have intriguing implications for other fields, including history, political science, and even international relations. Yet systematic assessments of the relevant empirical evidence are rare; previous studies tend to be monographic. The earliest can be traced back to the thirties, when data collected by the Federal government (and studies by Paul Douglas) became widely available. This wave crested between the end of the World War II and the late fifties. A second and very recent wave followed the decay of the original postwar American wage system. In line with the focus of much recent research on inequality, it emphasizes work-force characteristics, technological change, and the acquisitions of skills. This paper uses industrial wage data and a systemic of unconventional selection of methods to examine changes in the inter-industry structure of wages between 1920 and 1947.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Macroeconomics with number 9809010.

    in new window

    Length: 88 pages
    Date of creation: 25 Sep 1998
    Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:9809010
    Note: Type of Document - Acrobat PDF; prepared on IBM PC ; to print on PostScript; pages: 88; figures: included
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:9809010. 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: (EconWPA)

    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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 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.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.