Coordination, inclusiveness and wage inequality between median- and bottom-income workers
What explains cross-national variation in wage inequality? Research in comparative political economy stresses the importance of the welfare state and wage coordination in reducing not only disposable income inequality but also gross earnings inequality. However, the cross-national variation in gross earnings inequality between median- and low-income workers is at odds with this conventional wisdom: the German coordinated market economy is now more unequal in this type of inequality than the United Kingdom, a liberal market economy. To solve this puzzle, I argue that non-inclusive coordination benefits median but not bottom-income workers and is as a result associated with higher – rather than lower – wage inequality. I find support for this argument using a large N quantitative analysis of wage inequality in a panel of Western European countries. Results are robust to the inclusion of numerous controls, country fixed effects, and also hold in a larger sample of OECD countries. Taken together these findings force us to reconsider the relationship between coordination and wage inequality at the bottom of the income distribution.