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Changes in U.S. Wages, 19762000: Ongoing Skill Bias or Major Technological Change?

  • Paul Beaudry

    (University of British Columbia)

  • David A. Green

    (University of British Columbia)

This article examines the determinants of changes in the U.S. wage structure from 1976 to 2000. Our main empirical observation is that changes in both the level of wages and the returns to skill over this period were primarily driven by changes in the ratio of human capital to physical capital. We show that this pattern conforms extremely well to a simple model of technological adoption following a major change in technological opportunities. In contrast, we do not find much empirical support for the view that ongoing (factor-augmenting) skill-biased technological progress has been an important driving force over this period.

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Labor Economics.

Volume (Year): 23 (2005)
Issue (Month): 3 (July)
Pages: 609-648

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:v:23:y:2005:i:3:p:609-648
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  1. Daron Acemoglu, 1998. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change and Wage Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1055-1089.
  2. Susanto Basu & David N. Weil, 1998. "Appropriate Technology and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1025-1054.
  3. Katz, L.F. & Murphy, K.M., 1991. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1580, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  4. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 1999. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Paul Beaudry & David Green, 2001. "Population Growth, Technological Adoption and Economic Outcomes: A Theory of Cross-Country Differences for the Information Era," NBER Working Papers 8149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Zeira, Joseph, 1995. "Workers, Machines and Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 1139, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. George J. Borjas & Valerie A. Ramey, 1995. "Foreign Competition, Market Power, and Wage Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(4), pages 1075-1110.
  8. Paul Beaudry & David Green, 2000. "The Changing Structure of Wages in the US and Germany: What Explains the Differences?," NBER Working Papers 7697, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
  10. Diewert, W E & Woodland, A D, 1977. "Frank Knight's Theorem in Linear Programming Revisited," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(2), pages 375-98, March.
  11. Adrian Wood, 1995. "How Trade Hurt Unskilled Workers," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 57-80, Summer.
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