The wage premium puzzle and the quality of human capital
AbstractThe wage premium for high-skilled workers in the United States, measured as the ratio of the 90th-to-10th percentiles from the wage distribution, increased by 20 percent from the 1970s to the late 1980s. A large literature has emerged to explain this phenomenon. A leading explanation is that skill-biased technological change (SBTC) increased the demand for skilled labor relative to unskilled labor. In a calibrated vintage capital model with heterogenous labor, this paper examines whether SBTC is likely to have been a major factor in driving up the wage premium. Our results suggest that the contribution of SBTC is very small, accounting for about 1/20th of the observed increase. By contrast, a gradual and very modest shift in the distribution of human capital across workers can easily account for the large observed increase in wage inequality.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its series Working Paper Series with number 2011-06.
Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2011-03-26 (All new papers)
- NEP-BEC-2011-03-26 (Business Economics)
- NEP-HRM-2011-03-26 (Human Capital & Human Resource Management)
- NEP-LAB-2011-03-26 (Labour Economics)
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