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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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Author Info

  • Borghans, Lex

    ()
    (Maastricht University)

  • ter Weel, Bas

    ()
    (CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis)

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

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 751.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2003
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Labour Economics, 2004, 11 (1), 85-98
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp751

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Keywords: computer use and skill; wage differentials by skill;

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  1. 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, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 291-303, February.
  2. Borghans,L. & Weel,B.,ter, 2001. "Computers, Skills and Wages," ROA Research Memorandum, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) 005, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
  3. Chennells, Lucy & Van Reenen, John, 1997. "Technical Change and Earnings in British Establishments," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 64(256), pages 587-604, November.
  4. 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.
  5. Entorf, Horst & Kramarz, Francis, 1997. "Does unmeasured ability explain the higher wages of new technology workers?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 41(8), pages 1489-1509, August.
  6. Doms, Mark & Dunne, Timothy & Troske, Kenneth R, 1997. "Workers, Wages, and Technology," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 253-90, February.
  7. H, Entorf & Michel Gollac & Francis Kramarz, 1997. "New Technologies, Wages and Worker Selection," Working Papers, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique 97-25, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  8. Borghans,Lex & Weel,Bas,ter, 2002. "Do Older Workers Have More Trouble Using a Computer Than Younger Workers?," ROA Research Memorandum, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) 003, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
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Cited by:
  1. 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).
  2. Thomas Fuchs & Ludger Wossmann, 2004. "Computers and student learning: bivariate and multivariate evidence on the availability and use of computers at home and at school," Brussels Economic Review, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles, vol. 47(3-4), pages 359-386.
  3. Ponzo, Michela, 2010. "Does the Way in which Students Use Computers Matter for their Performance?," MPRA Paper 25483, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Lex Borghans & Hans Heijke, 2005. "The production and use of human capital: Introduction," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(2), pages 133-142.
  5. 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, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE 008744, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. Andries de Grip & Inge Sieben, 2005. "The effects of human resource management on small firms' productivity and employees' wages," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(9), pages 1047-1054.
  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. Ng, Ying Chu, 2006. "Levels of computer self-efficacy, computer use and earnings in China," Economics Letters, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 427-432, March.
  11. 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.
  12. 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).

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