The Impact of Labor Market Reforms on Income Inequality
Barbosa, Gabriel Frossard
Kern, Andreas T
This paper explores the impact of changes in the rigidity of labor market legislation on income inequality. Although traditional scholarship has focused on the impact of institutional arrangements on a selection of economic outcomes such as unemployment and labor force participation, comparably little attention has been paid to the effects arising from the rigidity of existing labor market institutions and its implications for income inequality. To date little is known about how and through which channels changes and overall rigidity of labor markets impact income inequality. In order to investigate this relationship, I compile a unique dataset based on the Labor Market Rigidity Index (LAMRIG) constructed by Campos and Nugent (2012), which covers over 140 countries between 1950 and 2004, as well as a composite measure of Gini coefficients for the same period. I further refine my analysis to examine wage dispersions through which labor market legislation affects, contracting or widening, incomes in different countries as well as the impact of the substitution of labor for capital. My results confirm previous findings on the negative association between labor market rigidity, wage dispersion, the financialization of the economy, and income inequality. Moreover, I find that positive changes in labor market legislation, i.e. greater labor market protections and centralization are associated with negative changes in intra-country differences between top and low-wage earners. These estimation results are robust to different model specifications and assumptions. From a policy perspective, my findings imply that labor market reforms might produce undesirable side effects in aggravating wage dispersion and income inequality.
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