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Analyzing skilled and unskilled labor efficiencies in the US

  • Unel, Bulent

In this paper, I analyze the time paths of the efficiencies of skilled and unskilled labor in a production framework where skilled and unskilled labor are imperfect substitutes. Their implications for economic growth and wage inequality in the US between 1950 and 2005 present two main findings. First, although skilled labor efficiency has a strong upward trend, I find no evidence of acceleration in its growth rate to support the common view that there has been an acceleration in the new skilled-biased technologies. Second, beginning around 1970, there has been a decline in the absolute level of the efficiency of unskilled labor, implying that the decline has played a significant role in the overall productivity slowdown and the substantial widening in the US wage structure.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Macroeconomics.

Volume (Year): 32 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 957-967

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jmacro:v:32:y:2010:i:4:p:957-967
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622617

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  1. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213.
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  9. Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 7800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Jorgenson, Dale W., 2005. "Accounting for Growth in the Information Age," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 10, pages 743-815 Elsevier.
  11. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
  12. Paul Krugman, 1995. "Growing World Trade: Causes and Consequences," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(1, 25th A), pages 327-377.
  13. 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.
  14. Miguel Székely & Nancy Birdsall & Jere R. Behrman, 2000. "Economics Reform and Wage Differentials in Latin America," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 6476, Inter-American Development Bank.
  15. David Wasshausen & Brent R. Moulton, 2006. "The Role of Hedonic Methods in Measuring Real GDP in the United States," BEA Papers 0067, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
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  19. Bound, John & Johnson, George, 1992. "Changes in the Structure of Wages in the 1980's: An Evaluation of Alternative Explanations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 371-92, June.
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