EVENT CANCELLED: The Race Between Preferences and Technology

Join Joachim Hubmer for this week's Macro Seminar

  • Tue 17 Mar 20

    16:00 - 17:30

  • Colchester Campus

    Economics Common Room 5B.307

  • Event speaker

    Joachim Hubmer

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Macro Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Economics, Department of

EVENT CANCELLED: In today's Macro seminar Joachim Hubmer from the University of Pennsylvania, discusses his paper on the Race Between Preferences and Technology

Joachim Hubmer is a faculty member at the Department of Economics at University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on macroeconomics and inequality.

Joachim will be presenting this paper on The Race Between Preferences and Technology.


This paper argues that a unified analysis of consumption and production is required to understand the long-run behavior of the labor share of income in the United States. First, using household data on the universe of consumer spending, it documents that higher-income households spend relatively more on labor-intensive goods and services as a share of their total consumption. Interpreted as the result of non-homothetic preferences, this fact implies that economic growth increases the labor share through an income effect. Second, using disaggregated good-level data on factor shares and capital intensities, the paper estimates that capital and labor are gross substitutes.

Consequently, investment-specific technical change, manifesting itself in the form of a well documented decline in the relative price of equipment capital, reduces the labor share. Given the estimated elasticities, Joachim shows that a parsimonious neoclassical model quantitatively matches the observed low-frequency movement in the aggregate labor share since the 1950s, both its relative stability until about 1980 and its decline thereafter. Until the early 1980s, the income effect, working through non-homothetic preferences, offset capital-labor substitution. Subsequently, accelerating investment-specific technical change, leading to increasing substitution of capital for labor, began to dominate the income effect.