Changes in the structure of Family Income Inequality in the United States and other Industrial Nations during the 1980s

Blackburn, McKinley; Bloom, David E.

We examine the detailed structure of family inequality in the United States, Canada, and Australia at various points during the 1980s. In each of these countries we find that income inequality increased among married couple families and that the increases are closely associated with increases in the inequality of husbands' earnings. However, only in the united states is the increased inequality of husbands' earnings also associated with an increase in education-earnings differentials. In addition, increased earnings inequality is associated with increases in both the variance of wages and the variance of labor supply in the united states and Canada, but only with an increase in the variance of labor supply in Australia. Evidence of an increase in married couple income inequality is also found for France and the United kingdom, but not for Sweden or the Netherlands. For married couple families in Canada, Sweden, the united kingdom, and the United States, we find that increased inequality of family income is closely associated with and increased correlation between husbands' and wives' earnings. A more detailed examination of this correlation in Canada and the United sates suggest that the increase in this correlation cannot be explained by an increase in the similarity of husbands and wives observable labor market characteristics in either country. Rather, it is explained partly by changes in the way those characteristics translate into labor market outcomes and more important, by changes in the interspousal correlation between unobservable factors that influence labor market outcomes.



More About This Work

Academic Units
Department of Economics, Columbia University
Department of Economics Discussion Papers, 693
Published Here
February 28, 2011


May 1994.