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Globalization and Top Income Shares

with Lin Ma, Journal of International Economics, 2020

This paper documents empirically that access to global markets is associated with a higher executive-to-worker pay ratio within the firm. It then uses China’s 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization as a trade shock to show that firms that exported to China prior to 2001 subsequently exported more, grew larger, and grew more unequal in terms of executive-to-worker pay. To evaluate analytically and quantitatively the impacts of globalization on top income inequality, this paper builds a model with heterogeneous firms, occupational choice, and executive compensation. In the model, executive compensation grows with the size of the firm, while the wage paid to ordinary workers is determined in a country-wide labor market. As a result, the extra profits earned in the foreign markets benefit the executives more than the average workers. We calibrate the model to the U.S. economy and match the income distribution closely in the data. Counterfactual exercises suggest that trade and FDI liberalizations can explain around 44 percent of the surge in top 0.1 percent income shares in the data between 1988 and 2008.

Published Version  Working Paper 

Working Papers

Returns to Scale, Productivity Measurement, and Trends in U.S. Manufacturing Misallocation

with Sui-Jade Ho, August 2019

Aggregate productivity suffers when workers and machines are not matched with their most productive uses. This paper builds a model that features industry-specific markups, industry-specific returns to scale, and establishment-specific distortions, and uses it to measure the extent of this misallocation in the economy. Applying the model to restricted U.S. census microdata on the manufacturing sector suggests that misallocation declined by 13% between 1982 and 2007. The jointly-estimated markup and returns to scale parameters vary substantially across industries. Furthermore, while the average markup has been relatively constant, the average returns to scale declined over this period. The finding of declining misallocation starkly contrasts the 29% increase implied by the widely used Hsieh & Klenow (2009) model, which assumes that all establishments charge the same markup and have constant returns to scale. Accounting for the variation in markups and returns to scale leads to the divergence of misallocation estimates in this paper from those implied by the Hsieh-Klenow model.

Latest Version 


Firms and Collective Reputation: a Study of the Volkswagen Emissions Scandal

with Rüdiger Bachmann, Gabriel Ehrlich and Ying Fan, July 2019

This paper uses the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal as a natural experiment to provide evidence that collective reputation externalities matter for firms. We find that the Volkswagen scandal reduced the U.S. sales of the other German auto manufacturers—BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Smart—by about 105,000 vehicles worth $5.2 billion. The decline was principally driven by an adverse reputation spillover, which was reinforced by consumer substitution away from diesel vehicles and was partially offset by substitution away from Volkswagen. These estimates come from a model of vehicle demand, the conclusions of which are also consistent with difference-in-differences estimates. We provide direct evidence on internet search behavior and consumer sentiment displayed on social media to support our interpretation that the estimates reflect a reputation spillover.

Press Coverage: VoxEUMarginal RevolutionSpiegel, the Insurance JournalMarket Business NewsÖkonomenstimme

Latest Version  NBER Working Paper CEPR Working Paper