IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Has Job Polarization Squeezed the Middle Class? Evidence from the Allocation of Talents

  • Michael J. Boehm
Registered author(s):

    Over the last two decades, earnings in the United States increased at the top and at the bottom of the wage distribution but not in the middle - the intensely debated middle class squeeze. At the same time there was a substantial decline of employment in middle-skill production and clerical occupations - so-called job polarization. I study whether job polarization has caused the middle class squeeze. So far little evidence exists about this because the endogenous selection of skills into occupations prevents credible identification of polarization's effect on wages. I solve the selection-bias problem by studying the changes in returns to occupation-specific skills instead of the changes in occupational wages using data over the two cohorts of the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY). This data features multidimensional and pre-determined test scores, which predict occupational sorting and thus measure relative occupation-specific skills. My estimation equations are derived from the Roy (1951) model over two cross-sections with job polarization amounting to a shift in the occupation-specific skill prices. In line with polarization, I find that a one percentage point higher propensity to enter high- (low-) as opposed to middle-skill occupations is associated with a .29 (.70) percent increase in expected wages over time. I then compute a counterfactual wage distribution using my estimates of the shifts in occupation-specific skill prices and show that it matches the increase at the top of the wage distribution but fails to explain the increase at the bottom. Thus, despite the strong association of job polarization with changes in the returns to occupation-specific skills, there remains room for alternative (e.g. policy related) explanations about the increase in the lower part of the wage distribution.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp1215.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp1215.

    as
    in new window

    Length:
    Date of creation: May 2013
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1215
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. Sascha O. Becker & Karolina Ekholm & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2009. "Offshoring and the Onshore Composition of Tasks and Skills," IAW Discussion Papers 55, Institut für Angewandte Wirtschaftsforschung (IAW).
    2. John Fitzgerald & Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1998. "An Analysis of Sample Attrition in Panel Data: The Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(2), pages 251-299.
    3. Sattinger, Michael, 1993. "Assignment Models of the Distribution of Earnings," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(2), pages 831-80, June.
    4. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2005. "Do Cognitive Test Scores Explain Higher U.S. Wage Inequality?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 184-193, February.
    5. Guido Matias Cortes, 2012. "Where Have the Routine Workers Gone? A Study of Polarization Using Panel Data," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 1224, Economics, The University of Manchester.
    6. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier, 2006. "Why Has CEO Pay Increased So Much?," NBER Working Papers 12365, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Heckman, James J & Sedlacek, Guilherme, 1985. "Heterogeneity, Aggregation, and Market Wage Functions: An Empirical Model of Self-selection in the Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1077-1125, December.
    8. Pischke, J.S., 1994. "Measurement Error and Earnings Dynamics: Some Estimates from the PSID Validation Study," Working papers 94-01, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    9. Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano & Giovanni Peri & Greg C. Wright, 2012. "Immigration, Offshoring and American Jobs," CEP Discussion Papers dp1147, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    10. Philippon, Thomas & Reshef, Ariell, 2009. "Wages and Human Capital in the U.S. Financial Industry: 1909-2006," CEPR Discussion Papers 7282, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2007. "Lousy and Lovely Jobs: The Rising Polarization of Work in Britain," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(1), pages 118-133, February.
    12. 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.
    13. Avraham Ebenstein & Ann Harrison & Margaret McMillan & Shannon Phillips, 2009. "Estimating the Impact of Trade and Offshoring on American Workers Using the Current Population Surveys," NBER Working Papers 15107, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Guy Michaels & Ashwini Natraj & John Van Reenen, 2010. "Has ICT Polarized Skill Demand? Evidence from Eleven Countries over 25 Years," CEP Discussion Papers dp0987, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    15. Joseph G. Altonji & Prashant Bharadwaj & Fabian Lange, 2008. "Changes in the Characteristics of American Youth: Implications for Adult Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 13883, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-66, May.
    17. Bound, John & Johnson, George, 1992. "Changes in the Structure of Wages in the 1980's: An Evaluation of Alternative Explanations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 371-92, June.
    18. Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2004. "Inequality and the Organization of Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 197-202, May.
    19. Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 1985. "Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(4), pages 370-79, October.
    20. 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.
    21. Shintaro Yamaguchi, 2013. "Changes in Returns to Task-Specific Skills and Gender Wage Gap," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd12-275, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    22. Heckman, James J, 1974. "Shadow Prices, Market Wages, and Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(4), pages 679-94, July.
    23. Marko Tervio, 2008. "The Difference That CEOs Make: An Assignment Model Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 642-68, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1215. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.