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  • Author: Robert Z. Lawrence
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Over the past decade, the US economy has been plagued by sluggish wage growth and rising income inequality. The debate over inequality in the 1980s and 1990s focused on the growing disparity between the earnings of skilled and unskilled workers and the earnings of the super-rich. Growing inequality between capital and labor income has now been added to these concerns. Remarkably, the growth in real GDP per worker over the decade of the 2000s, which averaged 1.7 percent annually, was actually more rapid than in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s, yet in the 2000s workers saw almost no increase in their take-home pay. Consistent with this gap between labor productivity and wage growth was a pronounced decline in the share of US national income earned by workers. As labor's share has declined, the share of capital has risen and has been especially concentrated in corporate profits. As profits are far less equally distributed than wages, this increase has contributed to rising income inequality. There are several plausible reasons for this development—globalization, automation, weak bargaining power of labor, political capture, higher markups—but the natural starting point for explaining factor income shares is the neoclassical theory of the functional distribution of income enumerated by John Hicks and Joan Robinson in the 1930s. In this framework there are two possible explanations for labor's recent declining share. The first is that capital and labor are gross substitutes, and the second is that capital and labor are gross complements. Several papers have explained the recent decline in labor's share in income by claiming that capital has been substituted for labor. Lawrence puts forward the alternative "gross complements" explanation for the declining US labor share. He shows that despite a rise in measured capital-labor ratios, labor-augmenting technical change in the United States has been sufficiently rapid that effective capital-labor ratios have actually fallen in the sectors and industries that account for the largest portion of the declining labor share in income since 1980. In combination with estimates that corroborate the consensus in the literature that the elasticity of substitution is less than 1, these declines in the effective capital-labor ratio can account for much of the recent fall in labor's share in US income at both the aggregate and industry level. Paradoxically, these results also suggest that increased capital formation, ideally achieved through a progressive consumption tax, would raise labor's share in income.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, Markets, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Matthew Adler, Gary Clyde Hufbauer
  • Publication Date: 08-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Over the last three decades the global economy has expanded in a remarkable fashion. While nominal world GDP has increased four times, world bilateral trade flows have grown more than six-fold, and the stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) has grown by roughly 20 times since 1980. The sources of global trade and investment growth are well known—general economic expansion, policy liberalization, and better communications and technology—but the impact of each source is unclear. In this paper we attempt to uncover the contribution of policy liberalization to the rising ratios of US inward and outward FDI stocks to GDP over the last three decades.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: J. Bradford Jensen, Peter K. Schott, Andrew B. Bernard
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This paper provides an integrated view of globally engaged US firms by exploring a newly developed dataset that links US international trade transactions to longitudinal data on US enterprises. These data permit examination of a number of new dimensions of firm activity, including how many products firms trade, how many countries firms trade with, the characteristics of those countries, the concentration of trade across firms, whether firms transact at arm's length or with related parties, and whether firms import as well as export. Firms that trade goods play an important role in the United States, employing more than a third of the US workforce. We find that the most globally engaged US firms, i.e. those that both export to and import from related parties, dominate US trade flows and employment at trading firms. We also find that firms that begin trading between 1993 and 2000 experience especially rapid employment growth and are a major force in overall job creation.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Morris Goldstein, Anna Wong
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This paper addresses the following question: If a financial crisis affecting a group of emerging economies were to take place sometime over the next three years, where would the crisis likely originate, how could it be transmitted to other economies, and which economies would be most affected by particular transmission or contagion mechanisms? A set of indicators is presented to gauge the vulnerability of individual emerging economies to various shocks, including a slowdown in import demand in both China and the United States, a fall in primary commodity prices, increased costs and lower availability of external financing, alternative patterns of exchange rate changes, and pressures operating on monetary and fiscal policies in emerging economies.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, Globalization, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: Edwin M. Truman
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Halving the US current account deficit as a share of GDP is likely to impose a burden of $2,350 per capita on the United States, which explains why US policymakers want to postpone adjustment. The rest of the world relies on the economic stimulus of a widening US external deficit, which explains why they are not eager to see global adjustment. The paper examines three scenarios of exchange rate adjustments, calls on the Federal Reserve to take more account of the external deficit in its words and policy actions, and familiarly notes the need for US fiscal adjustment as part of an efficient adjustment process. Complementary policies are required in the rest of the world. The paper discusses the pattern of recent international capital flows and proposes an international reserve diversification standard to remove some of the uncertainty about the management of foreign exchange reserves.
  • Topic: Debt, Development, Globalization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Catherine L. Mann
  • Publication Date: 01-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Globalization, always a contentious issue, has become even more so with media reports of U.S. service-sector jobs being outsourced to emerging-market economies, such as call center operations to Ireland or programming jobs to India. Traditionally, these jobs have been considered “nontradable” and therefore safe from the competitive forces of international trade and investment. But increasingly, technological advances are making it easier to buy services from other companies, even those in developing countries, where savings in the cost of labor or the opportunity to use the 24- hour clock to speed product develop- ment can be irresistible.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, International Trade and Finance, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: United States, Ireland