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The Diffusion of Computers and the Distribution of Wages

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  • Borghans, Lex

    ()
    (Maastricht University)

  • ter Weel, Bas

    ()
    (CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis)

Abstract

When workers adopt technology at the point where the costs equal the increased productivity, output per worker increases immediately, while the productivity benefits increase only gradually if the costs continue to fall. As a result, workers in computer-adopting labor market groups experience an immediate fall in wages due to increased supply. On the other hand, adopting workers experience wage increases with some delay. This model explains why increased computer use does not immediately lead to higher wage inequality. More specifically, the results of the model are shown to be consistent with the question why withingroup wage inequality among skilled workers as a result of computer technology adoption in the United States increased in the 1970s, while between-group wage inequality and withingroup wage inequality among the unskilled did not start to increase until the 1980s. The model also suggests that the slow diffusion of computer technology in Germany along with the absence of major changes in the wage structure in the 1980s is consistent with the more compressed German wage structure. Finally, the theoretical predictions seem to be of the right magnitude to explain the empirical quantities observed in the data.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1107.

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Length: 56 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: European Economic Review, 2007, 51 (3), 715-748
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1107

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Keywords: diffusion of computer; wage level and structure;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Lex Borghans & Bas ter Weel, 2008. "Understanding the Technology of Computer Technology Diffusion: Explaining Computer Adoption Patterns and Implications for the Wage Structure," Journal of Income Distribution, Journal of Income Distribution, Journal of Income Distribution, vol. 17(3-4), pages 37-70, September.
  2. Gould, Eric D., 2005. "Inequality and ability," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 169-189, April.
  3. David Autor & Frank Levy & Richard Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
  4. Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia & Cindy Zoghi, 2004. "Which Workers Gain from Computer Use?," Working Papers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 373, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  5. 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).
  6. Spitz, Alexandra & Bertschek, Irene, 2003. "IT, Organizational Change and Wages," ZEW Discussion Papers 03-69, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  7. Cornelia NOVAC-UDUDEC & Cristina ENACHE & Corina SBUGHEA, 2011. "The IT Impact on the Productivity and the Organizational Performance of Firms in Romania. A model of Empirical Analysis," Risk in Contemporary Economy, "Dunarea de Jos" University of Galati, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, pages 177-183.
  8. Spitz, Alexandra, 2004. "Using Methods of Treatment Evaluation to Estimate the Wage Effect of IT Usage," ZEW Discussion Papers 04-67, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.

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