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Skill Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles

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  • David Card
  • John E. DiNardo

Abstract

The rise in wage inequality in the U.S. labor market during the 1980s is usually attributed to skill-biased technical change (SBTC), associated with the development of personal computers and related information technologies. We review the evidence in favor of this hypothesis, focusing on the implications of SBTC for economy-wide trends in wage inequality, and for the evolution of wage differentials between various groups. A fundamental problem for the SBTC hypothesis is that wage inequality stabilized in the 1990s, despite continuing advances in computer technology. SBTC also fails to explain the closing of the gender gap, the stability of the racial wage gap, and the dramatic rise in education-related wage gaps for younger versus older workers. We conclude that the SBTC hypothesis is not very helpful in understanding the myriad shifts in the structure of wages that have occurred over the past three decades.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8769.

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Date of creation: Feb 2002
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Publication status: published as Card, David and John E. DiNardo. "Skill-Based Technological Change And Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems And Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, 2002, v20(4,Oct), 733-783.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8769

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  1. Bruce A. Weinberg, 2000. "Computer use and the demand for female workers," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 53(2), pages 290-308, January.
  2. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1993. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing Industries: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 4255, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. George E. Johnson, 1997. "Changes in Earnings Inequality: The Role of Demand Shifts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 41-54, Spring.
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  6. Fortin, N.M. & Lemieux, T., 1996. "Rank Regressions, Wage Distributions and the Gender Gap," Cahiers de recherche 9607, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en ├ęconomie quantitative, CIREQ.
  7. Thomas Lemieux & Nicole M. Fortin, 2000. "Are Women's Wage Gains Men's Losses? A Distributional Test," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 456-460, May.
  8. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2003. "Understanding International Differences in the Gender Pay Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 106-144, January.
  9. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  10. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  11. Anne E. Polivka, 1996. "Data Watch: The Redesigned Current Population Survey," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 169-180, Summer.
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