Manufacturing Jobs and Inequality: Why is the U.S. Experience Different?

29 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2019

See all articles by Natalija Novta

Natalija Novta

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Evgenia Pugacheva

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Date Written: September 2019

Abstract

We examine the extent to which declining manufacturing employment may havecontributed to increasing inequality in advanced economies. This contribution is typicallysmall, except in the United States. We explore two possible explanations: the high initialmanufacturing wage premium and the high level of income inequality. The manufacturingwage premium declined between the 1980s and the 2000s in the United States, but it doesnot explain the contemporaneous rise in inequality. Instead, high income inequality playeda large role. This is because manufacturing job loss typically implies a move to the servicesector, for which the worker is not skilled at first and accepts a low-skill wage. Onaverage, the associated wage cut increases with the overall level of income inequality inthe country, conditional on moving down in the wage distribution. Based on a stylizedscenario, we calculate that the movement of workers to low-skill service sector jobs canaccount for about a quarter of the increase in inequality between the 1980s and the 2000sin the United States. Had the U.S. income distribution been more equal, only about onetenth of the actual increase in inequality could have been attributed to the loss ofmanufacturing jobs, according to our simulations.

Keywords: Agriculture, Capital income, Cross country analysis, Data analysis, Demographic indicators, Disposable income, Economic indicators, Economic sectors, Economies, Education, Electricity, Emerging markets, Emigration and immigration, Employment, Estate taxes, Financial crises, Fishing, Gender, Health insurance, Higher education, Household survey data, Inclusive growth, Income distribution, Income inequality, Income taxes, Industry, Labor, Labor force, Manufacturing, Manufacturing sector, Market economies, Mortality, Pensions, Personal income, Population, Services, Services sector, Social safety nets, Social security, Stocks, Taxation, Unemployment, Unemployment insurance, Wages, inequality, man

JEL Classification: D31, D63, E25, J31, L60, O33, C43, C5, C8, D4, E,

Suggested Citation

Novta, Natalija and Pugacheva, Evgenia, Manufacturing Jobs and Inequality: Why is the U.S. Experience Different? (September 2019). IMF Working Paper No. 19/191, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3471382

Natalija Novta (Contact Author)

International Monetary Fund (IMF) ( email )

700 19th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20431
United States

Evgenia Pugacheva

International Monetary Fund (IMF) ( email )

700 19th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20431
United States

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