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Skill-Biased Technological Change: Is there Hope for the Unskilled?

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  • Matthias Weiss

    ()
    (Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA))

Abstract

This paper challenges the common view that skill-biased technological change boosts wage inequality. In a multi-sector economy, relative wages depend not only on relative productivities but also on relative goods prices. If there are complementarities between goods that do not benefit greatly from technological innovations and other goods whose production costs fall in the course of technical progress, the relative price of these "low-tech" goods rises. If the production of these "low-tech" goods is intensive in the use of unskilled labor, unskilled workers benefit from this increase in the relative goods price. This paper presents a simple two-sector, two-factor model of perpetual exogenous skill-biased technological change. The model is able to explain the increase in wage inequality in the 1980s and the subsequent stabilization of the wage structure in the 1990s.

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Paper provided by Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in its series MEA discussion paper series with number 04045.

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Date of creation: 30 Mar 2004
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Handle: RePEc:mea:meawpa:04045

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  1. Aghion, Philippe & Caroli, Eve & Garcia-Penalosa, Cecilia, 1999. "Inequality and economic growth: the perspective of the new growth theories," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9908, CEPREMAP.
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  7. Gregg, Paul & Manning, Alan, 1997. "Skill-biassed change, unemployment and wage inequality," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 1173-1200, June.
  8. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," NBER Working Papers 5956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," NBER Working Papers 8769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Stephen Nickell, 2004. "Poverty And Worklessness In Britain," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(494), pages C1-C25, 03.
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  12. R. Nahuis & H.L.F. de Groot, 2003. "Rising skills premia: you ain't seen nothing yet," Working Papers, Utrecht School of Economics 03-02, Utrecht School of Economics.
  13. Weiss, Matthias, 2008. "Skill-biased technological change: Is there hope for the unskilled?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(3), pages 439-441, September.
  14. Haskel, Jonathan E. & Slaughter, Matthew J., 2002. "Does the sector bias of skill-biased technical change explain changing skill premia?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(10), pages 1757-1783, December.
  15. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
  16. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
  17. Paul Beaudry & David A. Green, 2005. "Changes in U.S. Wages, 19762000: Ongoing Skill Bias or Major Technological Change?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(3), pages 609-648, July.
  18. Leamer, Edward E, 1996. "Wage Inequality from International Competition and Technological Change: Theory and Country Experience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 309-14, May.
  19. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. David H. Autor & David Dorn, 2013. "The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the US Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(5), pages 1553-97, August.
  2. Melanie Lührmann & Matthias Weiss, 2006. "Market Work, Home Production, Consumer Demand and Unemployment among the Unskilled," MEA discussion paper series, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy 06101, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  3. Matthias Weiss, 2004. "Skill-Biased Technological Change: Is there Hope for the Unskilled?," MEA discussion paper series, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy 04045, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  4. Wielandt, Hanna & Senftleben, Charlotte, 2012. "The Polarization of Employment in German Local Labor Markets," Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 62063, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  5. Jaewon Jung & Jean Mercenier, 2010. "Routinization-Biased Technical Change, Globalization and Labor Market Polarization: Does Theory Fit the Facts?," Working Papers 13/2010, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
  6. Lührmann, Melanie & Weiss, Matthias, 2010. "The effect of working time and labor force participation on unemployment: A new argument in an old debate," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 67-82, January.
  7. Nicholas Rohde & Ross Guest, 2013. "Multidimensional Racial Inequality in the United States," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 114(2), pages 591-605, November.
  8. Das, Gouranga, 2012. "Trans-border Land Acquisitions:A New Guise of Outsourcing and Host Country Effects," MPRA Paper 40651, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Charlotte Senftleben & Hanna Wielandt, 2012. "The Polarization of Employment in German Local Labor Markets," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2012-013, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  10. van de Klundert, Theo, 2008. "Looking back, looking ahead: Biased technological change, substitution and the wage gap," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 707-713, June.

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