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Rising Wage Inequality and Postgraduate Education

  • Joanne Lindley
  • Stephen Machin

This paper considers what has hitherto been a relatively neglected subject in the wage inequality literature, albeit one that has been becoming more important over time, namely the role played by increases in postgraduate education. We document increases in the number of workers with a postgraduate qualification in the United States and Great Britain. We also show their relative wages have risen over time as compared to all workers and more specifically to graduates with only a college degree. Consideration of shifts in demand and supply shows postgraduates and college only workers to be imperfect substitutes in production and that there have been trend increases over time in the relative demand for postgraduate vis-à-vis college only workers. These relative demand shifts are significantly correlated with technical change as measured by changes in industry computer usage and investment. Moreover, the skills sets possessed by postgraduates and the occupations in which they are employed are significantly different to those of college only graduates. Over the longer term period when computers have massively diffused into workplaces, it turns out that the principal beneficiaries of this computer revolution has not been all graduates, but those more skilled workers who have a postgraduate qualification. This has been an important driver of rising wage inequality amongst graduates over time.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp1075.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1075
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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  1. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," NBER Working Papers 5956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  11. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  14. Zvi Eckstein & Éva Nagypál, 2004. "The evolution of U.S. earnings inequality: 1961?2002," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Dec, pages 10-29.
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  16. Tinbergen, Jan, 1974. "Substitution of Graduate by Other Labour," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(2), pages 217-26.
  17. Christian Dustmann & Johannes Ludsteck & Uta Schönberg, 2009. "Revisiting the German Wage Structure," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 843-881, May.
  18. Paul Beaudry & Mark Doms & Ethan Lewis, 2010. "Should the Personal Computer Be Considered a Technological Revolution? Evidence from U.S. Metropolitan Areas," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(5), pages 988 - 1036.
  19. Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 2006. "Technical Change, Job Tasks, and Rising Educational Demands: Looking outside the Wage Structure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 235-270, April.
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