NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

It's Where You Work: Increases in Earnings Dispersion across Establishments and Individuals in the U.S.

Erling Barth, Alex Bryson, James C. Davis, Richard Freeman

NBER Working Paper No. 20447
Issued in September 2014
NBER Program(s):   LS   PR

This paper links data on establishments and individuals to analyze the role of establishments in the increase in inequality that has become a central topic in economic analysis and policy debate. It decomposes changes in the variance of ln earnings among individuals into the part due to changes in earnings among establishments and the part due to changes in earnings within-establishments and finds that much of the 1970s-2010s increase in earnings inequality results from increased dispersion of the earnings among the establishments where individuals work. It also shows that the divergence of establishment earnings occurred within and across industries and was associated with increased variance of revenues per worker. Our results direct attention to the fundamental role of establishment-level pay setting and economic adjustments in earnings inequality.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20447

Published: Journal of Labor Economics, Volume 34, Number S2, Part 2, April 2016

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