Sectoral Productivity and the Distribution of Wages



Policy reports suggesting that productivity growth will raise the earnings of low-wage workers are based on the concept that gains from productivity will trickle down to raise the wages of workers at the lower end of the wage distribution. The compensation and employment systems of American industry do strongly link gains in industry productivity to wage increases for most workers. However, this analysis finds that the linkage of productivity change to wage change for the workers at the lower end of the distribution is virtually nonexistent. The empirical results of this study suggest that productivity increases have no effect on the wage change of workers at the lowest 10th percentile of the distribution and widen the dispersion in industry wages.