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The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics

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On the cyclicality of real wages and wage differentials

Christopher Otrok
  • Department of Economics, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA
  • Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, St. Louis, MO, USA
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Panayiotis M. Pourpourides
  • Corresponding author
  • Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Aberconway Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff CF10 3EU, UK
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2017-09-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bejm-2017-0047


Previous empirical literature suggests that estimated wage cyclicality depends on the structure of the relationship between real wages and an observed indicator of the business cycle that econometric models impose prior to estimation. This paper, alleviates the problem of imposing such structure by searching directly for the largest common cycles in longitudinal microdata using a Bayesian dynamic latent factor model. We find that the comovement of real wages is related to a common factor that exhibits a significant but imperfect correlation with the national unemployment rate. Among others, our findings indicate that the common factor explains, on average, no more than 9% of wage variation, it accounts for 20% or less of the wage variability for 88% of the workers in the sample and roughly half of the wages move procyclically while half move countercyclically. These facts are inconsistent with claims of a strong systematic relationship between real wages and business cycles.

Keywords: Bayesian analysis; business cycles, wage differentials; wages

JEL Classification: C11; C13; C22; C23; C81; C82; J31


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-09-20

Citation Information: The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, Volume 19, Issue 1, 20170047, ISSN (Online) 1935-1690, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bejm-2017-0047.

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