Real Wage Trends, 1979 to 2017
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Donovan, Sarah A.; Bradley, David H.
[Excerpt] The focus of this report is on wage rates and changes at selected wage percentiles, with some attention given to the potential influence of educational attainment and the occupational distribution of worker groups on wage patterns. Other factors are likely to contribute to wage trends over the 1979 to 2017 period as well, including changes in the supply and demand for workers, labor market institutions, workplace organization and practices, and macroeconomic trends. This report provides an overview of how these broad forces are thought to interact with wage determination, but it does not attempt to measure their contribution to wage patterns over the last four decades. For example, changes over time in the supply and demand for workers with different skill sets (e.g., as driven by technological change and new international trade patterns) is likely to affect wage growth. A declining real minimum wage and decreasing unionization rates may lead to slower wage growth for workers more reliant on these institutions to provide wage protection, whereas changes in pay setting practices in certain high pay occupations, the emergence of superstar earners (e.g., in sports and entertainment), and skill biased technological changes may have improved wage growth for some workers at the top of the wage distribution. Macroeconomic factors, business cycles, and other national economic trends affect the overall demand for workers, with consequences for aggregate wage growth, and may affect employers’ production decisions (e.g., production technology and where to produce) with implications for the distribution of wage income. These factors are briefly discussed at the end of the report.
wage rates; wage percentiles; labor economics; wage determination