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Wage Inequality and Demand for Skill: Evidence from Five Decades

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  • Chinhui Juhn

Abstract

Using the 1940–90 Censuses, the author examines long-run changes in male wage inequality and skill premiums and investigates the extent to which shifts in observable measures of skill supply and demand can account for relative wage fluctuations across decades. A simple supply and demand framework is reasonably successful in accounting for movements in the education premium but is less successful in explaining changes in overall wage inequality. While the difference between the 90th and 10th percentiles of the log wage distribution fell sharply in the 1940s and grew at an accelerating rate in the 1980s, relative demand for the most versus the least skilled workers rose steadily throughout the period. The pace of industrial change and, in particular, the expansion of medium-skilled sectors such as blue-collar manufacturing appear to have been inversely related to overall wage inequality growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Chinhui Juhn, 1999. "Wage Inequality and Demand for Skill: Evidence from Five Decades," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(3), pages 424-443, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ilrrev:v:52:y:1999:i:3:p:424-443
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    Cited by:

    1. Paul Beaudry & David A. Green & Benjamin M. Sand, 2016. "The Great Reversal in the Demand for Skill and Cognitive Tasks," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(S1), pages 199-247.
    2. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1999. "Education and Income in the Early 20th Century: Evidence from the Prairies," NBER Working Papers 7217, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Budd, John W. & McCall, Brian P., 1999. "Decomposing Changes In Retail Food Wage Distributions, 1983-1998: A Semi-Parametric Analysis," Working Papers 14327, University of Minnesota, The Food Industry Center.
    4. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    5. Wojciech Kopczuk & Emmanuel Saez & Jae Song, 2007. "Uncovering the American Dream: Inequality and Mobility in Social Security Earnings Data since 1937," NBER Working Papers 13345, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1999. "The Returns to Skill in the United States across the Twentieth Century," NBER Working Papers 7126, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2007. "Lousy and Lovely Jobs: The Rising Polarization of Work in Britain," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(1), pages 118-133, February.
    8. Jose Varejao & Anabela Carneiro, 2005. "Plant Turnover and the Evolution of Regional Inequalities," ERSA conference papers ersa05p709, European Regional Science Association.
    9. Autor, David & Dorn, David, 2009. "Inequality and Specialization: The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 4290, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. repec:sae:ilrrev:v:54:y:2001:i:2a:p:484-501 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. repec:eee:streco:v:45:y:2018:i:c:p:84-93 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. John W. Budd & Brian P. McCall, 2001. "The Grocery Stores Wage Distribution: A Semi-Parametric Analysis of the Role of Retailing and Labor Market Institutions," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 54(2A), pages 484-501, March.
    13. Hon-Kwong Lui & Wing Suen, 2005. "The Shrinking Earnings Premium for University Graduates in Hong Kong: The Effect of Quantity or Quality?," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 23(2), pages 242-254, April.
    14. Anabela Carneiro & José Varejão, 2012. "Establishment Turnover and the Evolution of Wage Inequality," CEF.UP Working Papers 1202, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.
    15. Hynninen, Sanna-Mari & Ojala, Jari & Pehkonen, Jaakko, 2013. "Technological change and wage premiums: Historical evidence from linked employer–employee data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 1-11.
    16. Matthew J. Hill, 2014. "Homes and husbands for all: Marriage, housing and the baby boom," Economics Working Papers 1452, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

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