Research Topics

Publications on Wage inequality

There are 4 publications for Wage inequality.
  • When a Rising Tide Sinks Most Boats

    Policy Note 2015/4 | March 2015
    Trends in US Income Inequality
    In the postwar period, with every subsequent expansion, a smaller and smaller share of the gains in income growth have gone to the bottom 90 percent of families. Worse, in the latest expansion, while the economy has grown and average real income has recovered from its 2008 lows, all of the growth has gone to the wealthiest 10 percent of families, and the income of the bottom 90 percent has fallen. Most Americans have not felt that they have been part of the expansion. We have reached a situation where a rising tide sinks most boats.   This policy note provides a broader overview of the increasingly unequal distribution of income growth during expansions, examines some of the changes that occurred from 2012 to 2013, and identifies a disturbing business cycle trend. It also suggests that policy must go beyond the tax system if we are serious about reversing the drastic worsening of income inequality. 

  • On the Determinants of Changes in Wage Inequality in Bolivia

    Working Paper No. 835 | March 2015

    In recent years, Bolivia has experienced a series of economic and political transformations that have directly affected the labor markets, particularly the salaried urban sector. Real wages have shown strong increases across the distribution, while also presenting a decrease in inequality. Using an intertemporal decomposition approach, we find evidence that changes in demographic and labor market characteristics can explain only a small portion of the observed inequality decline. Instead, the results indicate that the decline in wage inequality was driven by the faster wage growth of usually low-paid jobs, and wage stagnation of jobs that require higher education or are in traditionally highly paid fields. While the evidence shows that the reduction in inequality is significant, we suggest that such an improvement might not be sustainable in the long run, since structural factors associated with productivity, such as workers’ level of education, explain only a small portion of these wage changes.

    Associated Program:
    Gustavo Canavire-Bacarreza Fernando Rios-Avila

  • A Decade of Declining Wages

    Policy Note 2015/3 | March 2015
    From Bad to Worse
    In a recent policy note (A Decade of Flat Wages?) we examined wage trends since 1994, and found that while wages grew between 1994 and 2002, average real wages stagnated or declined after 2002–03. Our latest study provides a more detailed analysis of wage trends for wage-level, age, and education groups, with emphasis on the periods following the 2001 and 2007–09 recessions.   There was a more or less cohesive evolution of wages among different groups until 2002–03. However, after controlling for structural changes in the labor force, wages diverged sharply in the years that followed for different age, education, and wage groups, with the majority of workers experiencing real declines in their wages. This was not a short-term decline among a few numerically insignificant groups. Nearly two-thirds of all full-time wage earners have less than a four-year college degree and saw their wages decline compared to peak wages in 2002. Workers aged 44 and younger, representing slightly more than 38 million full-time wage earners or 71.4 percent of all full-time wage earners in the United States, also experienced a large reduction in cumulative wage growth after 2002. In terms of wage groups, the bottom 75 percent of full-time workers saw a decline in real wages, while those at the top of the wage distribution saw their wages rise—clear evidence of increasing wage inequality.   Given the downward trend in real wages for the majority of full-time wage earners since 2009, it should come as no surprise that recovery from the Great Recession has been weak. In the absence of an employer-of-last-resort policy, federal and state policy must focus its efforts on increasing wages through measures such as progressive tax policy, raising the minimum wage, ensuring overtime pay laws are enforced, and creating opportunities for the most vulnerable workers.  

  • A Decade of Flat Wages?

    Policy Note 2014/4 | June 2014
    In the late 1990s low unemployment rates, increases in the minimum wage, and improvements in labor productivity contributed to a boost in wages, which translated into 12.4 percent cumulative growth in real wages from the late ‘90s until 2002. Real wages then stagnated despite continued growth in labor productivity. This period between 2002 and 2013 has become known as the decade of flat wages. However, over the same period there were significant changes in the composition of the labor market. In particular, the labor force has aged and become more educated. Increases in age, experience, and education could in fact be propping up observed real wages—meaning that wages of workers with a specific age and education profile may have actually declined over the decade. This is exactly what we uncover in this policy note: what appears to have been a decade of flat real wages was actually a decade of declining real wages within age/education worker profiles.
    Associated Program:
    Fernando Rios-Avila Julie L. Hotchkiss

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