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The Race between Education and Technology: The Evolution of U.S. Educational Wage Differentials, 1890 to 2005

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  • Claudia Goldin
  • Lawrence F. Katz

Abstract

U.S. educational and occupational wage differentials were exceptionally high at the dawn of the twentieth century and then decreased in several stages over the next eight decades. But starting in the early 1980s the labor market premium to skill rose sharply and by 2005 the college wage premium was back at its 1915 level. The twentieth century contains two inequality tales: one declining and one rising. We use a supply-demand-institutions framework to understand the factors that produced these changes from 1890 to 2005. We find that strong secular growth in the relative demand for more educated workers combined with fluctuations in the growth of relative skill supplies go far to explain the long-run evolution of U.S. educational wage differentials. An increase in the rate of growth of the relative supply of skills associated with the high school movement starting around 1910 played a key role in narrowing educational wage differentials from 1915 to 1980. The slowdown in the growth of the relative supply of college workers starting around 1980 was a major reason for the surge in the college wage premium from 1980 to 2005. Institutional factors were important at various junctures, especially during the 1940s and the late 1970s.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12984.

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Date of creation: Mar 2007
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12984

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Diego Restuccia & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2010. "The Evolution of Education: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Working Papers tecipa-388, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  2. Gianluca Violante & Giovanni Gallipoli & Costas Meghir, 2005. "Education Decisions, Equilibrium Policies and Wages Dispersion," 2005 Meeting Papers 522, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Neil Mehrotra & Dmitriy Sergeyev, 2013. "Sectoral Shocks, the Beveridge Curve and Monetary Policy," 2013 Meeting Papers 919, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Brant Abbott & Giovanni Gallipoli & Costas Meghir & Gianluca Violante, 2013. "Education policy and intergenerational transfers in equilibrium," IFS Working Papers W13/17, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  5. Gabrielle Demange, 2008. "The Provision of Higher Education in a Global World—Analysis and Policy Implications," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 54(2), pages 248-276, June.
  6. He, Hui, 2012. "What drives the skill premium: Technological change or demographic variation?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1546-1572.
  7. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2005. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Re-Assessing the Revisionists," NBER Working Papers 11627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Crifo, Patricia, 2008. "Skill supply and biased technical change," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 812-830, October.

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