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Polarization and rising wage inequality: comparing the U.S. and Germany

  • Antonczyk, Dirk
  • DeLeire, Thomas
  • Fitzenberger, Bernd

This paper compares trends in wage inequality in the U.S. and Germany using an approach developed by MaCurdy and Mroz (1995) to separate age, time, and cohort effects. Between 1979 and 2004, wage inequality increased strongly in both the U.S. and Germany but there were various country specific aspects of this increase. For the U.S., we find faster wage growth since the 1990s at the top (80% quantile) and the bottom (20% quantile) compared to the median of the wage distribution, which is evidence for polarization in the U.S. labor market. In contrast, we find little evidence for wage polarization in Germany. Moreover, we see a large role played by cohort effects in Germany, while we find only small cohort effects in the U.S.. Employment trends in both countries are consistent with polarization since the 1990s. We conclude that although there is evidence in both the U.S. and Germany which is consistent with a technology-driven polarization of the labor market, the patterns of trends in wage inequality differ strongly enough that technology effects alone cannot explain the empirical findings.

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Paper provided by ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research in its series ZEW Discussion Papers with number 10-015.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:10015
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  1. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
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  8. Carneiro, Pedro & Lee, Sokbae, 2010. "Trends in Quality-Adjusted Skill Premia in the United States, 1960-2000," IZA Discussion Papers 5295, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Johannes Gernandt & Friedhelm Pfeiffer, 2007. "Rising Wage Inequality in Germany," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Department of Statistics and Economics, vol. 227(4), pages 358-380, August.
  10. Fitzenberger, Bernd & Kohn, Karsten & Wang, Qingwei, 2006. "The Erosion of Union Membership in Germany: Determinants, Densities, Decompositions," ZEW Discussion Papers 06-66, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  11. Kohn, Karsten, 2006. "Rising Wage Dispersion, After All! The German Wage Structure at the Turn of the Century," IZA Discussion Papers 2098, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Koenker, Roger W & Bassett, Gilbert, Jr, 1978. "Regression Quantiles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 33-50, January.
  13. Autor, David & Dorn, David, 2009. "Inequality and Specialization: The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 4290, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Eswar Prasad, 2000. "The Unbearable Stability of the German Wage Structure; Evidence and Interpretation," IMF Working Papers 00/22, International Monetary Fund.
  15. Reinhard Hujer & Bernd Fitzenberger & Reinhold Schnabel & Thomas E. MaCurdy, 2001. "Testing for uniform wage trends in West-Germany: A cohort analysis using quantile regressions for censored data," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 41-86.
  16. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2006. "The Polarization of the U.S. Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 11986, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  18. Thomas Lemieux, 2007. "The Changing Nature of Wage Inequality," NBER Working Papers 13523, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  20. Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 2006. "Technical Change, Job Tasks, and Rising Educational Demands: Looking outside the Wage Structure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 235-270, April.
  21. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  22. A.B. Atkinson & Andrew Leigh, 2006. "The Distribution of Top Incomes in Australia," CEPR Discussion Papers 514, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  23. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2003. "Lousy and Lovely Jobs: the Rising Polarization of Work in Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0604, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  24. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2003. "Lousy and lovely jobs: the rising polarization of work in Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20002, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  25. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2005. "Trends in U. S. Wage Inequality: Re-Assessing the Revisionists," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2095, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  26. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
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