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U.S. wages in general equilibrium: the effects of prices, technology and factor supplies, 1963-1991

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  • James Harrigan
  • Rita A. Balaban

Abstract

Wage inequality in the United States has increased in the past two decades, and most researchers suspect that the main causes are changes in technology, international competition, and factor supplies. The relative importance of these causes in explaining wage inequality is important for policy making and is controversial, partly because there has been no research which has directly estimated the joint impact of these different causes. In this paper, we view wages as arising out of a competitive general equilibrium where goods prices, technology and factor supplies jointly determine outputs and factor prices. We specify an empirical model which allows us to estimate the general equilibrium relationship between wages and technology, prices, and factor supplies. The model is based on the neoclassical theory of production, and is implemented by assuming that GDP is a function of prices, technology levels, and supplies of capital and different types of labor. We treat final goods prices as being partially determined in international markets, and we use data on trends in the international economy as instruments for U.S. prices. We find that relative factor supply and relative price changes are both important in explaining the growing return to skill. In particular, we find that capital accumulation and the fall in the price of traded goods served to increase the return to education.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 64.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:64

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Keywords: Wages ; Education ; Technology ; Prices;

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References

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  1. Eli Berman & John Bound & Stephen Machin, 1997. "Implications of Skill-Biased Technological Change: International Evidence," NBER Working Papers 6166, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  14. Harrigan, James, 1997. "Technology, Factor Supplies, and International Specialization: Estimating the Neoclassical Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 475-94, September.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Atolia, Manoj & Yoshinori, Kurokawa, 2008. "Variety Trade and Skill Premium in a Calibrated General Equilibrium Model: The Case of Mexico," MPRA Paper 13698, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Blum, Bernardo S., 2008. "Trade, technology, and the rise of the service sector: The effects on US wage inequality," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 441-458, March.
  3. Yoshinori Kurokawa, 2014. "A Survey Of Trade And Wage Inequality: Anomalies, Resolutions And New Trends," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(1), pages 169-193, 02.
  4. Robert Feenstra & Gordon Hanson, 2001. "Global Production Sharing and Rising Inequality: A Survey of Trade and Wages," NBER Working Papers 8372, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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