IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Higher Education Levels, Firms' Outside Options and the Wage Structure

  • Asa Rosén
  • Etienne Wasmer

We analyze the consequences of an increase in the supply of highly educated workers on relative and real wages in a search model where wages are set by Nash bargaining. A key insight is that an increase in the average education level exerts a negative externality on wages through its positive externality on the firms' outside option. As a consequence, the real wage of all workers decreases in the short run. Since this decline is more pronounced for less educated workers, wage inequality increases. In the long-run a better educated work force induces firms to invest more in physical capital. Wage inequality and real wages of highly educated workers increase while real wages of less educated workers may decrease. These results are consistent with the US experience in the 1970s and 1980s. Based upon differences in legal employment protection we also provide an explanation for the diverging evolution of real and relative wages in Continental Europe. Copyright 2005 CEIS, Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: link to full text
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by CEIS in its journal LABOUR.

Volume (Year): 19 (2005)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 621-654

in new window

Handle: RePEc:bla:labour:v:19:y:2005:i:4:p:621-654
Contact details of provider: Postal: Via Columbia, 2 00133 Roma
Phone: 0039 06 2040234
Fax: 0039 06 2020687
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Nickell, Stephen & Bell, Brian, 1995. "The Collapse in Demand for the Unskilled and Unemployment across the OECD," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 40-62, Spring.
  2. Katharine G. Abraham & Susan Houseman, 1995. "Earnings Inequality in Germany," NBER Chapters, in: Differences and Changes in Wage Structures, pages 371-404 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Paul Beaudry & David A. Green, 2003. "Wages and Employment in the United States and Germany: What Explains the Differences?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 573-602, June.
  4. James Albrecht & Susan Vroman, 2002. "A Matching Model with Endogenous Skill Requirements," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(1), pages 283-305, February.
  5. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:113:y:1998:i:4:p:1215-1244 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. David Card & Francis Kramarz & Thomas Lemieux, 1999. "Changes in the Relative Structure of Wages and Employment: A Comparison of the United States, Canada, and France," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 32(4), pages 843-877, August.
  7. Ljungqvist, Lars & Sargent, Thomas J., 1997. "The European Unemployment Dilemma," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 178, Stockholm School of Economics.
  8. Acemoglu, Daron, 1997. " Matching, Heterogeneity, and the Evolution of Income Distribution," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 61-92, March.
  9. Gilles Duranton, 1998. "The Economics of Productive Systems: Segmentation and Skill-Biased Change," CEP Discussion Papers dp0398, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  10. Machin, Stephen & Manning, Alan, 1997. "Can supply create its own demand? Implications for rising skill differentials," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-5), pages 507-516, April.
  11. Mortensen, Dale T. & Pissarides, Christopher A., 1999. "Job reallocation, employment fluctuations and unemployment," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 18, pages 1171-1228 Elsevier.
  12. Peter Gottschalk, 1997. "Inequality, Income Growth, and Mobility: The Basic Facts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 21-40, Spring.
  13. John Hassler & José Vicente Rodríguez Mora, 2003. "A Positive Theory of Geographic Mobility and Social Insurance," Working Papers 97, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:111:y:1996:i:3:p:779-804 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Stephen Machin & John Van Reenen, 1998. "Technology and changes in skill structure: evidence from seven OECD countries," IFS Working Papers W98/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  18. Steven J. Davis, 1992. "Cross-Country Patterns of Change in Relative Wages," NBER Working Papers 4085, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Daron Acemoglu, 1999. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1259-1278, December.
  20. 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.
  21. Machin, Stephen, 1996. "Wage Inequality in the UK," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 47-64, Spring.
  22. Bertola, Giuseppe, 1990. "Job security, employment and wages," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 851-879, June.
  23. Pissarides, Christopher A., 2001. "Employment protection," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 131-159, May.
  24. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:105:y:1990:i:3:p:699-726 is not listed on IDEAS
  25. Paul Beaudry & David Green, 1998. "What is Driving US and Canadian Wages: Exogenous Technical Change or Endogenous Choice of Technique?," NBER Working Papers 6853, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Lawrence F. Katz & Gary W. Loveman & David G. Blanchflower, 1993. "A Comparison of Changes in the Structure of Wages," NBER Working Papers 4297, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Burda, Michael C, 1992. " A Note on Firing Costs and Severance Benefits in Equilibrium Unemployment," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 94(3), pages 479-89.
  28. Even Caroli & John Van Reenen, 1999. "Organization, skill and technology: evidence from a panel of British and French establishments," IFS Working Papers W99/23, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  29. David Blanchflower & L Katz & G Loveman, 1993. "A Comparison of Changes in the Structure of Wages in Four OECD Countries," CEP Discussion Papers dp0144, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  30. 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.
  31. Mortensen, Dale T & Pissarides, Christopher A, 1999. "Unemployment Responses to 'Skill-Biased' Technology Shocks: The Role of Labour Market Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(455), pages 242-65, April.
  32. Saint-Paul, G., 1991. "The High Unemployment Trap," DELTA Working Papers 91-01, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  33. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173, July.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:labour:v:19:y:2005:i:4:p:621-654. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing)

or (Christopher F. Baum)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.