Wage inequality and productivity growth: motivating sticks and crippling carrots

Mark Rogers, Guy Vernon

Research output: Preprint or Working paperWorking paper


Wage inequality is a particular focus of attention not only in public debates over the need for social regulation to support equity, but those over the implications of social regulation for productive performance. The present paper employs panel techniques to examine the comparative historical relationship between wage inequality and hourly labour productivity growth in the manufacturing sectors of nine advanced industrialised nations over the period 1970-1995. The results show that whilst greater inequality in the top half of the wage distribution is associated with greater productivity growth, greater inequality in the bottom half is associated with lower productivity growth. It appears that whilst wage inequality in the top half of the distribution productively motivates higher earners, wage inequality in the bottom half of the distribution is detrimental for productivity performance. The latter result is most likely attributable to the weak incentives to reorganise production where extremely low pay is feasible.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford (UK)
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Publication series

NameSKOPE research paper
ISSN (Print)1466-1535

Bibliographical note

ESRC funded Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational PerformanceOxford and Warwick Universities


  • productivity growth
  • wage inequality
  • human capital
  • skill biased technical change
  • institutions


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