The Micro-Level Anatomy of the Labor Share Decline

61 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2018

See all articles by Matthias Kehrig

Matthias Kehrig

Duke University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Nicolas Vincent

HEC Montreal - Institute of Applied Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2018

Abstract

The labor share in U.S. manufacturing declined from 62 percentage points (ppts) in 1967 to 41 ppts in 2012. The labor share of the typical U.S. manufacturing establishment, in contrast, rose by over 3 ppts during the same period. Using micro-level data, we document five salient facts: (1) since the 1980s, there has been a dramatic reallocation of value added toward the lower end of the labor share distribution; (2) this aggregate reallocation is not due to entry/exit, to “superstars” growing faster or to large establishments lowering their labor shares, but is instead due to units whose labor share fell as they grew in size; (3) low labor share (LL) establishments benefit from high revenue labor productivity, not low wages; (4) they also enjoy a product price premium relative to their peers, pointing to a significant role for demand-side forces; and (5) they have only temporarily lower labor shares that rebound after five to eight years. This transient pattern has become more pronounced over time, and the dynamics of value added and employment are increasingly disconnected.

Suggested Citation

Kehrig, Matthias and Vincent, Nicolas, The Micro-Level Anatomy of the Labor Share Decline (November 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w25275, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3286940

Matthias Kehrig (Contact Author)

Duke University ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/matthiaskehrig/research

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

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Nicolas Vincent

HEC Montreal - Institute of Applied Economics ( email )

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Montréal, Quebec H3T 2A7
Canada

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