Abstract

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Inequality and Institutions in 20th Century America


Frank S. Levy


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Urban Studies & Planning

Peter Temin


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

June 27, 2007

MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 07-17

Abstract:     
We provide a comprehensive view of widening income inequality in the United States contrasting conditions since 1980 with those in earlier postwar years. We argue that the income distribution in each period was strongly shaped by a set of economic institutions. The early postwar years were dominated by unions, a negotiating framework set in the Treaty of Detroit, progressive taxes, and a high minimum wage - all parts of a general government effort to broadly distribute the gains from growth. More recent years have been characterized by reversals in all these dimensions in an institutional pattern known as the Washington Consensus. Other explanations for income disparities including skill-biased technical change and international trade are seen as factors operating within this broader institutional story.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 59

Keywords: Income inequality, Institutions, Treaty of Detroit, Washington Consensus

JEL Classification: J31, J53, N32

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Date posted: May 7, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Levy, Frank S. and Temin, Peter, Inequality and Institutions in 20th Century America (June 27, 2007). MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 07-17. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=984330 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.984330

Contact Information

Frank S. Levy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Urban Studies & Planning ( email )
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Room 9-523
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
617-253-2089 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://web.mit.edu/flevy/www
Peter Temin (Contact Author)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )
50 Memorial Drive
E52-280a
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-3126 (Phone)
617-253-6915 (Fax)
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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