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Are computer skills the new basic skills? The returns to computer, writing and math skills in Britain

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  • Borghans, Lex
  • ter Weel, Bas

Abstract

The large increase in computer use has raised the question whether people have to be taught computer skills before entering the labour market. Using data from the 1997 Skills Survey of the Employed British Workforce, we argue that neither the increase in computer use nor the fact that particularly higher skilled workers use a computer provides evidence that computer skills are valuable. We compare computer skills with writing and math skills and test whether wages vary with computer skills, given the specific use that is made of computers. The regression results show that while the ability to write documents and to carry out mathematical analyses yields significant labour-market returns, the ability to effectively use a computer has no substantial impact on wages. These estimates suggest that writing and math can be regarded as basic skills, but that the higher wages of computer users are unrelated to computer skills.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Labour Economics.

Volume (Year): 11 (2004)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 85-98

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Handle: RePEc:eee:labeco:v:11:y:2004:i:1:p:85-98

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References

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  1. Chennells, Lucy & Van Reenen, John, 1997. "Technical Change and Earnings in British Establishments," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 64(256), pages 587-604, November.
  2. DiNardo, John E & Pischke, Jorn-Steffen, 1997. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 291-303, February.
  3. Entorf, Horst & Kramarz, Francis, 1997. "Does unmeasured ability explain the higher wages of new technology workers?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(8), pages 1489-1509, August.
  4. Borghans,Lex & Weel,Bas,ter, 2002. "Do Older Workers Have More Trouble Using a Computer Than Younger Workers?," ROA Research Memorandum 003, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
  5. H, Entorf & Michel Gollac & Francis Kramarz, 1997. "New Technologies, Wages and Worker Selection," Working Papers 97-25, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  6. Borghans,Lex & Weel,Bas,ter, 2001. "Computers, Skills and Wages," Research Memorandum 019, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  7. Brian D. Bell, . "Skill-Biased Technical Change and Wages: Evidence from a Longitudinal Data Se," Economics Papers W25., Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  8. 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.
  9. Borghans,L. & Weel,B.,ter, 2001. "Computers, Skills and Wages," ROA Research Memorandum 005, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Ponzo, Michela, 2010. "Does the Way in which Students Use Computers Matter for their Performance?," MPRA Paper 25483, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Thomas Fuchs & Ludger Wößmann, 2005. "Computers and Student Learning:Bivariate and Multivariate Evidence on the Availability and Use of Computers at Home and at School," Ifo Working Paper Series Ifo Working Paper No. 8, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
  3. Mañé Vernet, Ferran, 2010. "El retorno a las competencias para los titulados universitarios catalanes," Working Papers 2072/179591, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
  4. Borghans, Lex & ter Weel, Bas, 2004. "The Diffusion of Computers and the Distribution of Wages," IZA Discussion Papers 1107, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Lex Borghans & Hans Heijke, 2005. "The production and use of human capital: Introduction," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(2), pages 133-142.
  6. Catherine Rodríguez Orgales & Fabio Sánchez Torres & Juliana Márquez Zúñiga, 2011. "Impacto del Programa Computadores para Educar" en la deserción estudiantil, el logro escolar y el ingreso a la educación superior"," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 008744, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
  7. Borghans, Lex & ter Weel, Bas, 2003. "What Happens When Agent T Gets a Computer? The Labor Market Impact of Cost Efficient Computer Adoption," IZA Discussion Papers 792, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Ng, Ying Chu, 2006. "Levels of computer self-efficacy, computer use and earnings in China," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 427-432, March.
  9. Thomas Fuchs & Ludger Wößmann, 2005. "Computer können das Lernen behindern," Ifo Schnelldienst, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 58(18), pages 16-23, 09.
  10. Andries de Grip & Inge Sieben, 2005. "The effects of human resource management on small firms' productivity and employees' wages," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(9), pages 1047-1054.
  11. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2005. "Computer Skills, Destination Language Proficiency and the Earnings of Natives and Immigrants," IZA Discussion Papers 1755, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Ganna Vakhitova & Christopher R. Bollinger, 2011. "Labor Market Return to Computer Skills: Using Microsoft Certification to Measure Computer Skills," Discussion Papers 46, Kyiv School of Economics.

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