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Specialization And The Skill Premium In The 20th Century

  • Matthew F. Mitchell

The skill premium fell substantially in the first part of the 20th century and then rose at the end of the century. I argue that these changes are connected to the organization of production. When production is organized into large plants, jobs become routinized, favoring less-skilled workers. A model is introduced that parameterizes capital's ability to do many tasks, that is, capital's flexibility. When calibrated to data on the distribution of plant sizes, the model can account for between half and two-thirds of the movement in the skill premium over the century. Copyright 2005 by the Economics Department Of The University Of Pennsylvania And Osaka University Institute Of Social And Economic Research Association.

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Article provided by Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association in its journal International Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 46 (2005)
Issue (Month): 3 (08)
Pages: 935-955

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Handle: RePEc:ier:iecrev:v:46:y:2005:i:3:p:935-955
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  1. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1998. "The Origins Of Technology-Skill Complementarity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 693-732, August.
  2. Acemoglu, D., 1997. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change and Wage Inequality," Working papers 97-14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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  5. David Thesmar & Mathias Thoenig, 2000. "Creative Destruction And Firm Organization Choice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1201-1237, November.
  6. Markus Mobius & Raphael Schoenle, 2006. "The Evolution of Work," NBER Working Papers 12694, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Ingram, Beth F. & Neumann, George R., 2006. "The returns to skill," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 35-59, February.
  8. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-28, June.
  9. Charles Brown & James L. Medoff, 1989. "The Employer Size-Wage Effect," NBER Working Papers 2870, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Francesco Caselli, 1999. "Technological Revolutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 78-102, March.
  11. 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.
  12. Gort, M. & Greenwood, J. & Rupert, P., 1998. "Measuring the Rate of Technological Progress in Structures," RCER Working Papers 457, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  13. Griliches, Zvi, 1969. "Capital-Skill Complementarity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(4), pages 465-68, November.
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