The Cross-Sectional Implications of Rising Wage Inequality in the United States

58 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2004

See all articles by Jonathan Heathcote

Jonathan Heathcote

Minneapolis Fed

Kjetil Storesletten

University of Oslo - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Giovanni L. Violante

New York University, Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 2004

Abstract

This Paper explores the implications of the recent sharp rise in US wage inequality for welfare and the cross-sectional distributions of hours worked, consumption and earnings. From 1967 to 1996 cross-sectional dispersion of earnings increased more than wage dispersion, due to a rise in the correlation between wages and hours worked. Over the same period, inequality in hours worked remained roughly constant, and consumption inequality increased only modestly. Using data from the PSID, we decompose the observed rise in wage inequality into changes in the variance of permanent, persistent and transitory shocks. With this changing wage process as the only primitive, we show that a calibrated overlapping-generations model with incomplete markets can account for these trends in cross-sectional US data. We also investigate the welfare costs of the rise in wage in-equality: the ex-ante loss is equivalent to a 5% decline in lifetime income for the worst affected cohorts.

Keywords: Consumption inequality, labour supply, wage inequality, welfare

JEL Classification: D11, D31, D58, D91, E21, I32, J22, J31

Suggested Citation

Heathcote, Jonathan and Storesletten, Kjetil and Violante, Giovanni L., The Cross-Sectional Implications of Rising Wage Inequality in the United States (March 2004). CEPR Discussion Paper No. 4296. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=527645

Jonathan Heathcote

Minneapolis Fed ( email )

90 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55480
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.jonathanheathcote.com

Kjetil Storesletten (Contact Author)

University of Oslo - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 1095 Blindern
N-0317 Oslo
Norway
+47 2284 4009 (Phone)
+47 2285 5035 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://folk.uio.no/kjstore/

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Giovanni L. Violante

New York University, Department of Economics ( email )

269 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10003
United States
212-992-9771 (Phone)
212-995-4186 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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