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Wage and Productivity Dispersion in U.S. Manufacturing: The Role of Computer Investment

  • Timothy Dunne
  • Lucia Foster
  • John Haltiwanger
  • Kenneth Troske

By exploiting establishment-level data for U.S. manufacturing, this paper sheds new light on the source of the changes in the structure of production, wages, and employment that have occurred over the last several decades. Based on recent theoretical work by Caselli (1999) and Kremer and Maskin (1996), we focus on empirically investigating the following two hypotheses. The first hypothesis is that the channel through which skill biased technical change works through the economy is via changes in the dispersion in wages and productivity across establishments. The second is that the increased dispersion in wages and productivity across establishments is linked to differential rates of technological adoption across establishments. We find empirical support for these hypotheses. Our main findings are that (1) the between plant component of wage dispersion is an important and growing part of total wage dispersion, (2) much of the between plant increase in dispersion is within industries, (3) the between plant measures of wage and productivity dispersion have indreased substantially over the last few decades, (4) industries with large changes in between plant wage dispersion also exhibit large changes n between plant productivity dispersion, (5) a substantial fraction of the rising dispersion in wages and productivity is accounted for by increasing wage and productivity differentials across high and low computer investment per worker plants and high and low capital intensity plants, and (6) Changes in dispersion accounted for by such observable characteristics yield predicted industry level changes in wage and productivity dispersion that are highly correlated.

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Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 00-01.

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Date of creation: Mar 2000
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Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:00-01
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  1. Nathalie Greenana & Jacques Mairesse, 2000. "Computers And Productivity In France: Some Evidence," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(3), pages 275-315.
  2. Kremer, M & Maskin, E, 1996. "Wage Inequality and Segregation by Skill," Working papers 96-23, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & C.J. Krizan, 1998. "Aggregate Productivity Growth: Lessons from Microeconomic Evidence," NBER Working Papers 6803, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. Greenwood, Jeremy & Hercowitz, Zvi & Krusell, Per, 1997. "Long-Run Implications of Investment-Specific Technological Change," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 342-62, June.
  6. Brynjolfsson, Erik & Hitt, Lorin M., 2004. "Computing Productivity: Firm-Level Evidence," Working papers 4210-01, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  7. Martin Neil Baily & Eric J. Bartelsman & John Haltiwanger, 1996. "Labor Productivity: Structural Change and Cyclical Dynamics," NBER Working Papers 5503, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Donald Siegel, 1997. "The Impact Of Computers On Manufacturing Productivity Growth: A Multiple-Indicators, Multiple-Causes Approach," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(1), pages 68-78, February.
  9. repec:oup:qjecon:v:117:y:2002:i:1:p:339-376 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
  11. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1995. "Employer Size and The Wage Structure in U.S. Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 5393, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. G. Steven Olley & Ariel Pakes, 1992. "The Dynamics of Productivity in the Telecommunications Equipment Industry," NBER Working Papers 3977, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Timothy Dunne & John Haltiwanger & Lucia Foster, 2000. "Wage and Productivity Dispersion in U.S. Manufacturing: The Role of Computer Investment," NBER Working Papers 7465, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Daron Acemoglu, 1999. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1259-1278, December.
  15. Berndt, Ernst R. & Morrison, Catherine J., 1995. "High-tech capital formation and economic performance in U.S. manufacturing industries An exploratory analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 9-43, January.
  16. repec:oup:qjecon:v:107:y:1992:i:1:p:1-34 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 1994. "Computers and Output Growth Revisited: How Big Is the Puzzle?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 273-334.
  18. Catherine J. Morrison, 2000. "Assessing The Productivity Of Information Technology Equipment In U.S. Manufacturing Industries," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(3), pages 471-481, August.
  19. Kevin J. Stiroh, 2002. "Information Technology and the U.S. Productivity Revival: What Do the Industry Data Say?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1559-1576, December.
  20. repec:adr:anecst:y:1996:i:41-42:p:14 is not listed on IDEAS
  21. Timothy Dunne & John Haltiwanger & Kenneth R. Troske, 1996. "Technology and Jobs: Secular Changes and Cyclical Dynamics," NBER Working Papers 5656, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. 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.
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  24. Michael Kremer & Eric Maskin, 1996. "Wage Inequality and Segregation," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1777, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  25. Bresnahan, Timothy F, 1999. "Computerisation and Wage Dispersion: An Analytical Reinterpretation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(456), pages F390-415, June.
  26. repec:oup:qjecon:v:112:y:1997:i:1:p:253-90 is not listed on IDEAS
  27. Douglas W Dwyer, 1995. "Whittling Away At Productivity Dispersion," Working Papers 95-5, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  28. Erik Brynjolfsson & Shinkyu Yang, 1997. "Information Technology and Productivity: A Review of the Literature," Working Paper Series 202, MIT Center for Coordination Science.
  29. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1993. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing Industries: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 4255, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Frank R. Lichtenberg, 1993. "The Output Contributions of Computer Equipment and Personnel: A Firm- Level Analysis," NBER Working Papers 4540, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  31. repec:oup:qjecon:v:113:y:1998:i:4:p:1169-1213 is not listed on IDEAS
  32. Eric J. Bartelsman & Wayne Gray, 1996. "The NBER Manufacturing Productivity Database," NBER Technical Working Papers 0205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  33. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
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