This paper uses linked establishment-firm-employee data to examine the relationship between the scientists and engineers proportion (SEP) of employment, and productivity and labor earnings. We show that: (1) most scientists and engineers in industry are employed in establishments producing goods or services, and do not perform research and development (R&D); (2) productivity is higher in manufacturing establishments with higher SEP, and increases with increases in SEP; (3) employee earnings are higher in manufacturing establishments with higher SEP, and increase substantially for employees who move to establishments with higher SEP, but only modestly for employees within an establishment when SEP increases in the establishment. The results suggest that the work of scientists and engineers in goods and services producing establishments is an important pathway for increasing productivity and earnings, separate and distinct from the work of scientists and engineers who perform R&D.
This paper analyzes the role of establishments in the upward trend in dispersion of earnings that has become a central topic in economic analysis and policy debate. It decomposes changes in the variance of log earnings among individuals into the part due to changes in earnings among establishments and the part due to changes in earnings within establishments. The main finding is that much of the 1970s–2010s increase in earnings inequality results from increased dispersion of the earnings among the establishments where individuals work. Our results direct attention to the role of establishment-level pay setting and economic adjustments in earnings inequality.