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Increasing dispersion of skills and rising earnings inequality

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  • Lam, Kit-Chun
  • Liu, Pak-Wai

Abstract

In recent decades many countries have simultaneously liberalized their trading regimes and expanded their education systems. The theoretical effect of these regime shifts on the wage differential between skilled and unskilled workers is ambiguous. On the one hand, openness to trade causes demand shifts in the labor market which may widen or narrow the differential. This result depends on whether the unskilled wage is depressed, as in the case of importing countries, or raised, as in the case of exporting countries. On the other hand, an increased supply of more educated workers reduces their wages and narrows the skill wage gap. In this study of the labor market of Hong Kong, we document that recent changes in response to the trade liberalization of Mainland China and expanded access to education have increased the earnings differential between skilled and unskilled workers. Using detailed census data, we argue that the main reason for this outcome is the widened dispersion of skills across the earnings distribution, resulting from demand and supply shifts in the labor market caused by trade openness and expanded access to higher education.

Suggested Citation

  • Lam, Kit-Chun & Liu, Pak-Wai, 2011. "Increasing dispersion of skills and rising earnings inequality," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 82-91, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:39:y:2011:i:1:p:82-91
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Pi, Jiancai & Zhou, Yu, 2014. "Foreign capital, public infrastructure, and wage inequality in developing countries," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 195-207.
    2. Pan, Lijun, 2014. "The impacts of education investment on skilled–unskilled wage inequality and economic development in developing countries," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 174-181.
    3. Sung Li & Long Zhao, 2015. "The competitiveness and development strategies of provinces in China: a data envelopment analysis approach," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 44(3), pages 293-307, December.
    4. Kee-Lee Chou & Kelvin Cheung & Maggie Lau & Tony Sin, 2014. "Trends in Child Poverty in Hong Kong Immigrant Families," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 117(3), pages 811-825, July.
    5. Siu-Yau Lee & Kee-Lee Chou, 2016. "Trends in Elderly Poverty in Hong Kong: A Decomposition Analysis," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 129(2), pages 551-564, November.
    6. Chau-kiu Cheung & Joseph Yu-shek Cheng, 2016. "Resources and Norms as Conditions for Well-Being in Hong Kong," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 126(2), pages 757-775, March.
    7. Hang Gao & Joseph Marchand & Tao Song, 2013. "The Supply and Demand Factors Behind the Relative Earnings Increases in Urban China at the Turn of the 21st Century," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 55(1), pages 121-143, March.
    8. Kelvin Chi-Kin Cheung & Kee-Lee Chou, 2016. "Working Poor in Hong Kong," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 129(1), pages 317-335, October.

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