NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Exploitation of Labor? Classical Monopsony Power and Labor's Share

Wyatt J. Brooks, Joseph P. Kaboski, Yao Amber Li, Wei Qian

NBER Working Paper No. 25660
Issued in March 2019
NBER Program(s):Development Economics Program, Economic Fluctuations and Growth Program

How important is the exercise of classical monopsony power against labor for the level of wages and labor's share? We examine this in the context of China and India – two large, rapidly-growing developing economies. Using theory, we develop a novel screen to quantify how wages are affected by market power exerted in labor markets, either by a single firm or a group of cooperating firms. The theory guides the measurement of labor “markdowns”, i.e., the gap between wage and the value of the marginal product of labor, and the screen examines how they comove with local labor market share and the share of cooperating firms. Applying this test, we find that markdowns substantially lower the labor share: by up to 10 percentage points in China and 15 percentage points in India. This impact has fallen over time in both countries as firm concentration in these labor markets has decreased.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25660

 
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