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Firming Up Inequality
We use a massive, matched employer-employee database for the United States to analyze the contribution of firms to the rise in earnings inequality from 1978 to 2013. We ?nd that one-third of the rise in the variance of (log) earnings occurred within firms, whereas two-thirds of the rise occurred between firms. However, this rising between-firm variance is not accounted for by the firms themselves: the firm-related rise in the variance can be decomposed into two roughly equally important forces?a rise in the sorting of high-wage workers to high-wage firms and a rise in the segregation of similar workers between firms. In contrast, we do not ?nd a rise in the variance of firm-speci?c pay once we control for worker composition. Instead, we see a substantial rise in dispersion of person-speci?c pay, accounting for 68% of rising inequality, potentially due to rising returns to skill. The rise in between-firm variance, mostly due to worker sorting and segregation, accounted for a particularly large share of the total increase in inequality in smaller and medium firms (explaining 84% for firms with fewer than 10,000 employees). In contrast, in the very largest firms with 10,000+ employees, 42% of the increase in the variance of earnings took place within firms, driven by both declines in earnings for employees below the median and a substantial rise in earnings for the 10% best-paid employees. However, because of their small number, the contribution of the very top 50 or so earners at large firms to the overall increase in within-firm earnings inequality is small.
AUTHORS: Guvenen, Fatih; Bloom, Nicholas; von Wachter, Till; Price, David; Song, Jae
Surveying Business Uncertainty
We elicit subjective probability distributions from business executives about their own-firm outcomes at a one-year look-ahead horizon. In terms of question design, our key innovation is to let survey respondents freely select support points and probabilities in five-point distributions over future sales growth, employment, and investment. In terms of data collection, we develop and field a new monthly panel Survey of Business Uncertainty (SBU). The SBU began in 2014 and now covers about 1,750 firms drawn from all 50 states, every major nonfarm industry, and a range of firm sizes. We find three key results. First, firm-level growth expectations are highly predictive of realized growth rates. Second, subjective uncertainty is highly predictive of forecast errors and the magnitude of future forecast revisions. Third, subjective uncertainty rises with the firm’s absolute growth rate in the previous year and the extent of recent news about its growth prospects. We aggregate over firm-level forecast distributions to construct monthly indices of business expectations (first moment) and uncertainty (second moment) for the U.S. private sector.
AUTHORS: Altig, David E.; Barrero, Jose Maria; Bloom, Nicholas; Davis, Steven J.; Meyer, Brent; Parker, Nicholas B.