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Technological Change and the Age-Earnings Profile: Evidence from the International Merchant Marine, 1861-1912

  • Peter Thompson

    (Carnegie Mellon University)

Models of vintage-specific learning predict systematic cross-technology differences in earnings among otherwise identical employees. This paper outlines a vintage learning model based on Chari and Hopenhayn's (1991, Journal of Political Economy) exposition. The model predicts that (i) the age-earnings profile is steeper in new technologies, (ii) the discounted present value of lifetime earnings are equalized across technologies, and (iii) the age-earnings profile in newer technologies becomes flatter over time. These predictions find support from a data set spanning a 52 year period beginning in 1861 that matches over 141,000 wage contracts accepted by merchant mariners to the technologies with which they worked. As a by-product, the paper reports some of the oldest evidence yet made available of the returns to literacy. (Copyright: Elsevier)

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1094-2025(03)00014-0
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Article provided by Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics in its journal Review of Economic Dynamics.

Volume (Year): 6 (2003)
Issue (Month): 3 (July)
Pages: 578-601

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Handle: RePEc:red:issued:v:6:y:2003:i:3:p:578-601
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  1. John E. DiNardo & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 1997. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 291-303.
  2. Jovanovic, B., 1998. "Vintage Capital and Equality," Working Papers 98-16, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  3. Goldin, Claudia & Katz, Lawrence, 2000. "Education and Income in the Early 20th Century: Evidence from the Prairies," Scholarly Articles 2624456, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  5. Greenwood, J. & Yorukoglu, M., 1996. "1974," RCER Working Papers 429, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  6. Chari, V V & Hopenhayn, Hugo, 1991. "Vintage Human Capital, Growth, and the Diffusion of New Technology," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(6), pages 1142-65, December.
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  8. Alan B. Krueger, 1993. "How Computers Have Changed the Wage Structure: Evidence from Microdata, 1984–1989," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(1), pages 33-60.
  9. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1998. "The Origins of Technology-Skill Complementarity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 693-732.
  10. Richard R. Nelson & Edmond S. Phelps, 1965. "Investment in Humans, Technological Diffusion and Economic Growth," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 189, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  11. 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.
  12. Mark Doms & Timothy Dunne & Kenneth R. Troske, 1997. "Workers, Wages, and Technology," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 253-290.
  13. Willis, Robert J., 1987. "Wage determinants: A survey and reinterpretation of human capital earnings functions," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 10, pages 525-602 Elsevier.
  14. Lothian, James R & Taylor, Mark P, 1996. "Real Exchange Rate Behavior: The Recent Float from the Perspective of the Past Two Centuries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(3), pages 488-509, June.
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  17. Hanoch, Giora & Honig, Marjorie, 1985. ""True" Age Profiles of Earnings: Adjusting for Censoring and for Period and Cohort Effects," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(3), pages 383-94, August.
  18. Huw Lloyd-Ellis, 1999. "Endogenous Technological Change and Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 47-77, March.
  19. Francesco Caselli, 1999. "Technological Revolutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 78-102, March.
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  21. Bahk, Byong-Hong & Gort, Michael, 1993. "Decomposing Learning by Doing in New Plants," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(4), pages 561-83, August.
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  23. Grubb, Farley, 1985. "The Market for Indentured Immigrants: Evidence on the Efficiency of Forward-Labor Contracting in Philadelphia, 1745–1773," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 45(04), pages 855-868, December.
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