Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 30, 2010

Earnings Inequality and the Equity Premium

Karl Walentin

In this paper, we document a 75 percent increase in stockholders' share of aggregate labor income in the U.S. from 1962 to 2000 using data from Survey of Consumer Finances. Our decomposition of the increase in stockholders' share of aggregate labor income documents that one half is due to the equi-proportional increase in participation and one quarter each is due to the non-proportional part of the changes in stockmarket participation and changes in the income distribution, respectively. The change due to the labor income distribution is driven entirely by the increase in the share of labor income accounted for by the top labor income decile. Using a simple model with limited stockmarket participation, we present a mechanism for how the increase in stockholders' share of aggregate labor income has affected the ex ante equity premium (i.e. the discount rate applied to equity). The mechanism works through the composition of income of stockholders. The resulting decrease in the equity premium is 44 percent, which roughly coincides with the historical change in the post-1951 equity premium implied by the simple dividend growth model in Fama and French (2002).

Published Online: 2010-11-30

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