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Productivity Measurement And The Impact Of Trade And Technology On Wages: Estimates For The U.S., 1972-1990

  • Robert Feenstra
  • Gordon H. Hanson

    (Department of Economics, University of California Davis)

We develop an empirical framework to assess the importance of trade and technical change on the wages of production and nonproduction workers. Trade is measured by the foreign outsourcing of intermediate inputs, while technical change is measured by the shift towards high-technology capital such as computers. In our benchmark specification, we find that both foreign outsourcing and expenditures of high-technology equipment can explain a substantial amount of the increase in the wages of nonproduction (high-skilled) relative to production (low-skilled) workers that occurred during the 1980s. Surprisingly, it is expenditures on high-technology capital other than computers that are important. These results are very sensitive, however, to our benchmark assumption that industry prices are independent of productivity. When we allow for the endogeneity of industry prices, then expenditures on computers becomes the most important cause of the increased wage inequality, and have a 50% greater impact than does foreign outsourcing.

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Paper provided by University of California, Davis, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 9717.

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Length: 0
Date of creation: 09 Jan 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cda:wpaper:97-17
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  1. David Autor & Lawrence Katz & Alan Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," Working Papers 756, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Eric J. Bartelsman & Wayne Gray, 1996. "The NBER Manufacturing Productivity Database," NBER Technical Working Papers 0205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ernst R. Berndt & Catherine J. Morrison & Larry S. Rosenblum, 1992. "High-Tech Capital Formation and Labor Composition in U.S. Manufacturing Industries: An Exploratory Analysis," NBER Working Papers 4010, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Baldwin, Robert E & Cain, Glen C, 1997. "Shifts in US Relative Wages: The Role of Trade, Technology and Factor Endowments," CEPR Discussion Papers 1596, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Baldwin, Robert E & Hilton, R Spence, 1984. "A Technique for Indicating Comparative Costs and Predicting Changes in Trade Ratios," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(1), pages 105-10, February.
  6. Martin Neil Baily & Robert J. Gordon, 1988. "The Productivity Slowdown, Measurement Issues, and the Explosion of Computer Power," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(2), pages 347-432.
  7. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Griliches, Zvi, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-97, May.
  8. Berndt, Ernst R. & Morrison, Catherine J., 1992. "High-tech capital formation and economic performance in U.S. manufacturing industries : an exploratory analysis," Working papers 3419-92., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
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