Niklas Engbom is a research economist at the Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2018 and earned a B.A. in economics from the Stockholm School of Economics. Starting in 2019, he will join the Stern School of Business at New York University as an assistant professor of economics. Niklas’s work has appeared in the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics and the American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings. His research focuses on issues in macroeconomics and labor economics.
We document a large decrease in earnings inequality in Brazil between 1996 and 2012. Using administrative linked employer-employee data, we fit high-dimensional worker and firm fixed-effects models to understand the sources of this decrease. Firm effects account for 40 percent of the total decrease and worker effects for 29 percent. Changes in observable worker and firm characteristics contributed little to these trends. Instead, the decrease is primarily due to a compression of returns to these characteristics, particularly a declining firm productivity-pay premium. Our results shed light on potential drivers of earnings inequality dynamics.
We use administrative US matched employer-employee data merged with detailed information on individuals’ academic records to assess the extent to which returns to education are mediated by the sorting of workers across firms. We present three results. First, we confirm findings in the earlier literature of large pay differences across higher education degrees. Second, we show that up to one quarter of pay premiums for higher degrees are explained by between-firm pay differences. Third, higher degrees are associated with greater representation at the best-paying firms. We conclude that employer heterogeneity is an important factor in mediating the returns to education.
We show that an increase in the minimum wage can have large effects throughout the earnings distribution, using a combination of theory and evidence. To this end, we develop an equilibrium search model featuring empirically relevant worker and firm heterogeneity. The minimum wage induces firms to adjust their equilibrium wage and vacancy policies, leading to spillovers on higher wages. We use the estimated model to evaluate the effects of a 119 percent increase in the real minimum wage in Brazil from 1996 to 2012. The policy change explains a large decline in earnings inequality, with spillovers reaching up to the 80th percentile of the earnings distribution. At the same time, employment and output fall only modestly as workers relocate to more productive firms. Using administrative linked employer-employee data and two household surveys, we find reduced-form evidence in support of the model predictions.