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The economics of production systems: Segmentation and skill-biased change

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  • Duranton, Gilles

Abstract

In this paper we introduce the concept of productive systems. Assuming a complementarity between skills and technology (more 'complex' technologies are intrinsically more productive but they require a more skilled labour force) and gains from the division of labor, firms face a trade-off between simple technologies for which the labor force is abundant and more complex technologies with less division of labor. In equilibrium, the economy is partitioned into productive systems working at different levels of complexity. The distribution of skills determines the boundaries of the productive systems, which in turn determine the wages. Thus, changes in the distribution of skills can have a dramatic effect upon wage inequalities. In particular an increase in skilled workers can induce first higher wages for all workers and then higher wages for the skilled but lower wages for the unskilled. This seems consistent with the recent evolution of the labor market.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 48 (2004)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 307-336

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Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:48:y:2004:i:2:p:307-336

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  1. Kiminori Matsuyama, 1995. "Complementarities and Cumulative Processes in Models of Monopolistic Competition," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(2), pages 701-729, June.
  2. Stephen Machin & John Van Reenen, 1998. "Technology and changes in skill structure: evidence from seven OECD countries," IFS Working Papers W98/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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  4. Daron Acemoglu, 1999. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1259-1278, December.
  5. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  6. Freeman, Richard, 1995. "The Limits of Wage Flexibility to Curing Unemployment," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 63-72, Spring.
  7. Kiley, Michael T, 1999. "The Supply of Skilled Labour and Skill-Biased Technological Progress," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(458), pages 708-24, October.
  8. Acemoglu, D., 1997. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change and Wage Inequality," Working papers 97-14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. Caroli, Eve & Greenan, Nathalie & Guellec, Dominique, 2001. "Organizational Change and Skill Accumulation," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(2), pages 481-506, June.
  10. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1999. "The Returns to Skill in the United States across the Twentieth Century," NBER Working Papers 7126, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Francesco Caselli, 1999. "Technological Revolutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 78-102, March.
  12. Doms, Mark & Dunne, Timothy & Troske, Kenneth R, 1997. "Workers, Wages, and Technology," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 253-90, February.
  13. Françis KRAMARZ & Francis KRAMARZ & Louis-Paul PELÉ, 1996. "Wage Inequalities and Firm-Specific Compensation policies in France," Annales d'Economie et de Statistique, ENSAE, issue 41-42, pages 369-386.
  14. Ethier, Wilfred J, 1982. "National and International Returns to Scale in the Modern Theory of International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 389-405, June.
  15. Dale W. Jorgenson, 2001. "Information Technology and the U.S. Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 1-32, March.
  16. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Schlitte, Friso, 2010. "Local human capital, segregation by skill, and skill-specific employment growth," HWWI Research Papers 1-32, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).
  2. Daron Acemoglu, 2005. "Equilibrium Bias of Technology," NBER Working Papers 11845, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Paul Beaudry & David Green, 2000. "The Changing Structure of Wages in the US and Germany: What Explains the Differences?," NBER Working Papers 7697, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Annekatrin Niebuhr & Javier Revilla Diez & Fabian Böttcher & Friso Schlitte, 2011. "The determinants of regional disparities in skill segregation – Evidence from a cross section of German regions," ERSA conference papers ersa10p640, European Regional Science Association.
  5. Asa Rosén & Etienne Wasmer, 2005. "Higher Education Levels, Firms' Outside Options and the Wage Structure," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 19(4), pages 621-654, December.
  6. Basant, Rakesh & Rani Uma, . "Labour Market Deepening in the Indian Information Technology Industry: An Exploratory Analysis," IIMA Working Papers WP2004-06-06, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.
  7. Hornstein, Andreas & Krusell, Per & Violante, Giovanni L., 2005. "The Effects of Technical Change on Labor Market Inequalities," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 20, pages 1275-1370 Elsevier.
  8. Jeemol Unni, 2006. "Home-based Work in India: A Disappearing Continuum of Dependence?," Working Papers id:379, eSocialSciences.
  9. Paul Beaudry & David Green, 2001. "Population Growth, Technological Adoption and Economic Outcomes: A Theory of Cross-Country Differences for the Information Era," NBER Working Papers 8149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Schlitte, Friso & Böttcher, Fabian & Niebuhr, Annekatrin & Diez, Javier Revilla, 2010. "The determinants of regional disparities in skill segregation: Evidence from a cross section of German regions," HWWI Research Papers 1-36, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).

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