Publications on Labor share
Working Paper No. 805 | May 2014
Measures and Structural Factors
Economic theory frequently assumes constant factor shares and often treats the topic as secondary. We will show that this is a mistake by deriving the first high-frequency measure of the US labor share for the whole economy. We find that the labor share has held remarkably steady indeed, but that the quasi-stability masks a sizable composition effect that is detrimental to labor. The wage component is falling fast and the stability is achieved by an increasing share of benefits and top incomes. Using NIPA and Piketty-Saez top-income data, we estimate that the US bottom 99 percent labor share has fallen 15 points since 1980. This amounts to a transfer of $1.8 trillion from labor to capital in 2012 alone and brings the US labor share to its 1920s level. The trend is similar in Europe and Japan. The decrease is even larger when the CPI is used instead of the GDP deflator in the calculation of the labor share.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 804 | May 2014
In this second part of our study we survey the rapidly expanding empirical literature on the determinants of the functional distribution of income. Three major strands emerge: technological change, international trade, and financialization. All contribute to the fluctuations of the labor share, and there is a significant amount of self-reinforcement among these factors. For the case of the United States, it seems that the factors listed above are by order of increasing importance. We conclude by noting that the falling US wage shares cointegrates with rising inequality and a rising top 1 percent income share. Thus, all measures of income distribution provide the same picture. Liberalization and financialization worsen economic inequality by raising top incomes, unless institutions are strongly redistributive.
The labor share has also fallen, for structural reasons and for reasons related to economic policy. Such explanations are left to parts III and IV of our study, respectively. Part I investigated the theories of income distribution.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 803 | May 2014
This series of working papers explores a theme enjoying a tremendous resurgence: the functional distribution of income—the division of aggregate income by factor share. This first installment surveys some landmark theories of income distribution. Some provide a technology-based account of the relative shares while others provide a demand-driven explanation (Keynes, Kalecki, Kaldor, Goodwin). Two questions lead to a better understanding of the literature: is income distribution assumed constant?, and is income distribution endogenous or exogenous? However, and despite their insights, these theories alone fail to fully explain the current deterioration of income distribution.
Subsequent installments are dedicated to analyzing the empirical literature (part II), to the measurement and composition of the relative shares (part III), and to a study of the role of economic policy (part IV).Download:Associated Program:Author(s):