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Wage Inequality and Cognitive Skills: Reopening the Debate

In: Education, Skills, and Technical Change: Implications for Future US GDP Growth

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  • Stijn Broecke
  • Glenda Quintini
  • Marieke Vandeweyer

Abstract

Inequality in the United States is high by international standards, and keeps rising. This is likely to bring significant social as well as economic costs, including lower growth. In this paper, we use the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) to revisit the debate on the relative importance of skills in explaining international differences in wage inequality. While simple decomposition exercises suggest that skills only play a very minor role, demand and supply analysis indicates that the relative net supply of skills could explain 29% of the higher top-end wage inequality in the United States. Our analysis also suggests that skills could explain a substantial portion of the racial wage gap, as well as between individuals from different socio-economic backgrounds. Finally, we find little support for the argument that higher wage inequality in the United States may be compensated for by better relative employment outcomes of the low-skilled.
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  • Stijn Broecke & Glenda Quintini & Marieke Vandeweyer, 2018. "Wage Inequality and Cognitive Skills: Reopening the Debate," NBER Chapters, in: Education, Skills, and Technical Change: Implications for Future US GDP Growth, pages 251-286, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:13703
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    Cited by:

    1. Leah Achdut & Elad Gutman & Idan Lipiner & Inbal Maayan & Noam Zussman, 2018. "The Wage Premium on Higher Education: Universities and Colleges," Bank of Israel Working Papers 2018.13, Bank of Israel.
    2. Sonja Jovicic, 2016. "Wage inequality, skill inequality, and employment: evidence and policy lessons from PIAAC," IZA Journal of European Labor Studies, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-26, December.
    3. Franziska Hampf & Ludger Woessmann, 2017. "Vocational vs. General Education and Employment over the Life Cycle: New Evidence from PIAAC," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 63(3), pages 255-269.
    4. Ziqiao Chen & Giovanni Marin & David Popp & Francesco Vona, 2020. "Green Stimulus in a Post-pandemic Recovery: the Role of Skills for a Resilient Recovery," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 76(4), pages 901-911, August.
    5. Martin, John P., 2018. "Skills for the 21st Century: Findings and Policy Lessons from the OECD Survey of Adult Skills," IZA Policy Papers 138, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Charles R. Hulten, 2017. "The Importance of Education and Skill Development for Economic Growth in the Information Era," NBER Working Papers 24141, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. repec:cep:cverdp:003 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Broecke, Stijn & Quintini, Glenda & Vandeweyer, Marieke, 2017. "Explaining international differences in wage inequality: Skills matter," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 112-124.
    9. Riska Dwi Wulandari & Susilo & Dias Satria, 2018. "Income Inequality between Formal-Informal Employees Based on Education Group," Economics and Finance in Indonesia, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Indonesia, vol. 64, pages 25-42, Juni.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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