Recent Twists of the Wage Structure and Technology Diffusion
This paper is an empirical study of the impact on U.S. wage structure of domestic technology, foreign technology, and import penetration. A model is presented which combines factor proportions theory with a version of growth theory. The model, which assumes two levels of skill, suggests that domestic technology raises both wages, while foreign technology, on a simple interpretation, lowers both. Trade at a constant technology, as usual, lowers the wage of that class of labor used intensively by the affected industry, and raises the other wage. The findings support the predictions of the model for domestic technology. On the other hand, they suggest that technological change, and perhaps other factors, have obscured the role of factor proportions in the data. Indeed, foreign technology and trade have the same effect on wages at different skill levels, not the opposite effects suggested by factor proportions. Finally, a simple diffusion story, in which foreign technology lowers all U.S. wages, is also rejected. Instead, uniformly higher U.S. wages, not lower, appear to be associated with the technology and trade of the oldest trading partners of the U.S., the economies of the West. Not so for Asia, especially the smaller countries which have recently accelerated their trade with the U.S. Their effects are uniformly negative on wages, suggesting a distinction between shock and long run effects of foreign technology and trade.
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