Taking the sector seriously

In a new study published in Social Indicators Research, I explore with two colleagues developments and the drivers of earnings inequality at the sectoral level using an own database that is publicly available. The study examines three key explanations for increasing earnings inequality exploiting sectoral variation within countries over time—namely, globalisation, technological change and waning labour union power. Interestingly, the results provide only limited support for the argument that international trade leads to higher levels of earnings inequality. When we focus the analysis on trade with less developed countries we find a positive association between trade and earnings inequality. With regard to technological change, our findings provide mixed evidence for the hypothesis that skill-biased technological change increases earnings inequality. Our results bring back the waning country-wide labour union power as an important driver of earnings inequality. This corresponds with the fact that our sectoral data reveal a more general trend towards rising inequality across sectors over time.