Re-measuring labor's share
Measuring labor's share of an economy's aggregate income seems straightforward, at least in principle. Count up wage and salary income, along with the value of benefits provided to employees, and divide it by total income. However, one fundamental concept of labor's share in macroeconomic theory is not the amount of aggregate income paid out to labor. Rather, it is the share of aggregate production that is attributable to "raw" units of labor. Or, otherwise stated, it is the share of aggregate income that would have been paid to laborers if they had no accumulated stocks of human capital.1 This share corresponds to an aggregate production function parameter: the elasticity of output with respect to physical (i.e. non-augmented or raw) units of labor (Robert Solow, 1957). In this paper we estimate annual raw labor’s share for the US, 1949 to 1996.
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