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Factor Endowments and the Returns to Skill: New Evidence from the American Past

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  • Joseph Kaboski
  • Trevon D. Logan

Abstract

The existing literature on skill-biased technical change has not considered how the technological endowment itself plays a role in the returns to skill. This paper constructs a simple model of skill biased technical change which highlights the role that resource endowments play in the returns to education. The model predicts variation in returns to education with skill biased technological change if there is significant heterogeneity in resource endowments before the technological change. Using a variety of historical sources, we document the heterogeneous technology levels by region in the American past. We then estimate the returns to education of high school teachers in the early twentieth century using a new data source. a report from the U.S. Commissioner of Education in 1909. Overall, we find significant regional variation in the returns to education that match differences in resource endowments, with large (within-occupation) returns for the Midwest and Southwest (7%), but much lower returns in the South (3%) and West (0.5%). We also show that our results are generalizable to returns to education in the United States and that returns to education for teachers tracked quite closely with the overall returns to education from 1940 onward.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13589.

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Date of creation: Nov 2007
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Publication status: published as Joseph P. Kaboski & Trevon D. Logan, 2011. "Factor Endowments and the Returns to Skill: New Evidence from the American Past," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(2), pages 111 - 152.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13589

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  1. David Autor & Frank Levy & Richard Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
  2. John M. Abowd & John Haltiwanger & Julia Lane & Kevin L. McKinney & Kristin Sandusky, 2007. "Technology and the Demand for Skill:An Analysis of Within and Between Firm Differences," NBER Working Papers 13043, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Hoyt Bleakley, 2007. "Disease and Development: Evidence from Hookworm Eradication in the American South," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 73-117, 02.
  4. Paul Beaudry & Mark Doms & Ethan Lewis, 2006. "Endogenous skill bias in technology adoption: city-level evidence from the IT revolution," Working Paper Series 2006-24, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
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Cited by:
  1. Parag A. Pathak & Peng Shi, 2014. "Demand Modeling, Forecasting, and Counterfactuals, Part I," NBER Working Papers 19859, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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