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The World Technology Frontier

  • Francesco Caselli
  • Wilbur John Coleman II

We study cross-country differences in the aggregate production function when skilled and unskilled labor are imperfect substitutes. We find that there is a skill bias in cross-country technology differences. Higher-income countries use skilled labor more efficiently than lower-income countries, while they use unskilled labor relatively and, possibly, absolutely less efficiently. We also propose a simple explanation for our findings: rich countries, which are skilled-labor abundant, choose technologies that are best suited to skilled workers; poor countries, which are unskilled-labor abundant, choose technologies more appropriate to unskilled workers. We discuss alternative explanations, such as capital-skill complementarity and differences in schooling quality. (JEL E13, E23, J31, O14)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 96 (2006)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 499-522

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:96:y:2006:i:3:p:499-522
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.96.3.499
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  1. Caselli, Francesco, 2005. "Accounting for Cross-Country Income Differences," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 9, pages 679-741 Elsevier.
  2. Sala-i-martin, X. & Barro, R.J., 1995. "technological Diffusion, Convergence and Growth," Papers 735, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
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  8. Caselli, Francesco & Coleman II, Wilbur John, 1999. "How Regions Converge," CEPR Discussion Papers 2191, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Atkinson, Anthony B & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1969. "A New View of Technological Change," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 79(315), pages 573-78, September.
  10. Acemoglu, Daron, 1997. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change and Wage Inequality," CEPR Discussion Papers 1707, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Duffy, John & Papageorgiou, Chris, 2000. " A Cross-Country Empirical Investigation of the Aggregate Production Function Specification," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 87-120, March.
  12. Charles I. Jones, 2005. "The Shape of Production Functions and the Direction of Technical Change," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 517-549, May.
  13. Douglas Gollin, 2002. "Getting Income Shares Right," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(2), pages 458-474, April.
  14. Dunne, Timothy & Schmitz, James A, Jr, 1995. "Wages, Employment Structure and Employer Size-Wage Premia: Their Relationship to Advanced-Technology Usage at US Manufacturing Establishments," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 62(245), pages 89-107, February.
  15. Robert J. Barro & Jong-Wha Lee, 2000. "International Data on Educational Attainment Updates and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. 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.
  17. Francesco Caselli & Gerardo Esquivel & Fernando Lefort, 1997. "Reopening the Convergence Debate: A New Look at Cross-Country Growth Empirics," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 03, Central Bank of Chile.
  18. King, Robert G. & Levine, Ross, 1994. "Capital fundamentalism, economic development, and economic growth," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 259-292, June.
  19. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker Than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116, February.
  20. Francesco Caselli & Wilbur John Coleman, 2001. "Cross-Country Technology Diffusion: The Case of Computers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 328-335, May.
  21. Peter J. Klenow & Mark Bils, 2000. "Does Schooling Cause Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1160-1183, December.
  22. Stephen L. Parente & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Barriers to Riches," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661306, June.
  23. Francesco Caselli, 2005. "Accounting for cross-country income differences," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3567, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  24. Acemoglu, Daron, 2002. "Directed Technical Change," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(4), pages 781-809, October.
  25. Philippe Aghion & Peter Howitt & David Mayer-Foulkes, 2004. "The Effect of Financial Development on Convergence: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 10358, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Caselli, Francesco & Wilson, Daniel J., 2004. "Importing technology," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 1-32, January.
  27. Mankiw, N Gregory & Romer, David & Weil, David N, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-37, May.
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  29. Eaton, Jonathan & Kortum, Samuel, 2001. "Trade in capital goods," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 1195-1235.
  30. Francesco Caselli, 1999. "Technological Revolutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 78-102, March.
  31. 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.
  32. Diamond, Peter & McFadden, Daniel & Rodriguez, Miguel, 1978. "Measurement of the Elasticity of Factor Substitution and Bias of Technical Change," Histoy of Economic Thought Chapters, in: Fuss, Melvyn & McFadden, Daniel (ed.), Production Economics: A Dual Approach to Theory and Applications, volume 2, chapter 5 McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought.
  33. Islam, Nazrul, 1995. "Growth Empirics: A Panel Data Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(4), pages 1127-70, November.
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  35. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 1997. "Capital-skill complementarity and inequality: a macroeconomic analysis," Staff Report 239, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  36. Trefler, Daniel, 1993. "International Factor Price Differences: Leontief Was Right!," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 961-87, December.
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