PER Distinguished Lecture: David Card

March 3, 2017 - 11:00am - 12:30pm
1512 International Affairs Building
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

PER Distinguished Lecture Series: David Card

"Firms and Labor Market Inequality: Evidence and Some Theory"

We review the literature on firm-level drivers of labor market inequality. There is strong evidence from a variety of fields that standard measures of productivity – like output per worker or total factor productivity – vary substantially across firms, even within narrowly-defined industries. Several recent studies note that rising trends in the dispersion of productivity across firms mirror the trends in the wage inequality across workers. Two distinct literatures have searched for a more direct link between these two phenomena. The first examines how wages are affected by differences in employer productivity. Studies that focus on firm-specific productivity shocks and control for the non-random sorting of workers to more and less productive firms typically find that a 10% increase in value-added per worker leads to somewhere between a 0.5% and 1.5% increase in wages. A second literature focuses on firm-specific wage premiums, using the wage outcomes of job changers. This literature also concludes that firm pay setting is important for wage inequality, with many studies finding that firm wage effects contribute approximately 20% of the overall variance of wages. To interpret these findings, we develop a model where workplace environments are viewed as imperfect substitutes by workers, and firms set wages with some degree of market power. We show that simple versions of this model can readily match the stylized empirical findings in the literature regarding rent-sharing elasticities and the structure of firm-specific pay premiums.


David Card is the Class of 1950 Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley and Director of the Labor Studies Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research interests include immigration, wages, education, and health insurance. He co-authored the 1995 book Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage, and co-edited The Handbook of Labor Economics (1999), Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms (2004); and Small Differences that Matter: Labor Markets and Income Maintenance in Canada and the United States (1992). He has also published over 90 journal articles and book chapters.

Card was co-editor of Econometrica from 1991 to 1995 and co-editor of the American Economic Review from 2002 to 2005. He taught at Princeton University from 1983 to 1996, and has held visiting appointments at Columbia University and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. In 1992 he was elected a fellow of the Econometric Society, and in 1998 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1995 he received the American Economic Association' s John Bates Clark Prize, which is awarded every other year to the economist under 40 whose work is judged to have made the most significant contribution to the field. He was a co-recipient of the IZA Labor Economics Award in 2006, and was awarded the Frisch Medal by the Econometric Society in 2007.

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