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Has ICT polarized skill demand?: evidence from eleven countries over 25 Years

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  • Guy Michaels
  • Ashwini Natraj
  • John Van Reenen

Abstract

OECD labor markets have become more “polarized” with employment in the middle of the skill distribution falling relative to the top and (in recent years) also the bottom of the skill distribution. We test the hypothesis of Autor, Levy, and Murnane (2003) that this is partly due to information and communication technologies (ICT) complementing the analytical tasks primarily performed by highly educated workers and substituting for routine tasks generally performed by middle educated workers (with little effect on low educated workers performing manual non-routine tasks). Using industry level data on the US, Japan, and nine European countries 1980-2004 we find evidence consistent with ICT-based polarization. Industries with faster growth of ICT had greater increases in relative demand for high educated workers and bigger falls in relative demand for middle educated workers. Trade openness is also associated with polarization, but this is not robust to controls for technology (like R&D). Technologies can account for up to a quarter of the growth in demand for the college educated in the quarter century since 1980.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/28739/
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 28739.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:28739

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Keywords: Technology; trade; skill demand; wage inequality;

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  1. Dinardo, J.E. & Pischke, J.S., 1996. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," Working papers 96-12, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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  3. Feenstra, R.C. & Hanson, G.H., 1995. "Foreign Investment, Outsourcing and Relative Wages," Papers 95-14, California Davis - Institute of Governmental Affairs.
  4. Dale W. Jorgenson & Mun S. Ho & Kevin J. Stiroh, 2008. "A Retrospective Look at the U.S. Productivity Growth Resurgence," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
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  6. David Card, 2009. "Immigration and Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 1-21, May.
  7. Kiminori Matsuyama, 2007. "Beyond Icebergs: Towards a Theory of Biased Globalization," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(1), pages 237-253.
  8. Francesca Mazzolari & Giuseppe Ragusa, 2013. "Spillovers from High-Skill Consumption to Low-Skill Labor Markets," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 74-86, March.
  9. Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 2006. "Technical Change, Job Tasks, and Rising Educational Demands: Looking outside the Wage Structure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 235-270, April.
  10. Alan B. Krueger, 1991. "How Computers Have Changed the Wage Structure: Evidence From Microdata, 1984-1989," NBER Working Papers 3858, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Sandra E. Black & Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 2007. "Explaining Women's Success: Technological Change and the Skill Content of Women's Work," NBER Working Papers 13116, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Firpo, Sergio & Fortin, Nicole M & Lemieux, Thomas, 2012. "Occupational tasks and changes in the wage structure," Textos para discussão 284, Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
  13. Eli Berman & Rohini Somanathan & Hong W. Tan, 2010. "Is Skill Biased Technological Change Here Yet? Evidence from India Manufacturing in the 1990s," NBER Chapters, in: Contributions in Memory of Zvi Griliches, pages 299-321 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Desjonqueres, Thibaut & Machin, Stephen & Van Reenen, John, 1999. " Another Nail in the Coffin? Or Can the Trade Based Explanation of Changing Skill Structures Be Resurrected?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 101(4), pages 533-54, December.
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