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

Wage Inequality,Technology and Trade: 21st Century Evidence

  • John Van Reenen

This paper describes and explains some of the principal trends in the wage and skill distribution in recent decades. There have been sharp increases in wage inequality across the OECD, beginning with the US and UK at the end of the 1970s. A good fraction of this inequality growth is due to technology-related increases in the demand for skilled workers outstripping the growth of their supply. Since the early 1990s, labour markets have become more polarized with jobs in the middle third of the wage distribution shrinking and those in the bottom and top third rising. I argue that this is because computerization complements the most skilled tasks, but substitutes for routine tasks performed by middle wage occupations such as clerks, leaving the demand for the lowest skilled service tasks largely unaffected. Finally, I argue that technology is partly endogenous, for example it has been spurred by trade with China. Thus, trade does matter for changes in the labour market through inducing faster technical change rather than just through the conventional Heckscher-Ohlin mechanism.

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/occasional/op028.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Occasional Papers with number 28.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: May 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cep:cepops:28
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEPOP

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. Brynjolfsson, Erik, 2011. "Wired for Innovation: How Information Technology Is Reshaping the Economy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262013666.
  2. Helpman, Elhanan & Itskhoki, Oleg & Redding, Stephen J., 2009. "Inequality and Unemployment in a Global Economy," CEPR Discussion Papers 7353, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. 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.
  4. Anthony Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Post-Print halshs-00754557, HAL.
  5. 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.
  6. Andrew Bernard & Stephen Redding & Peter Schott, 2004. "Comparative advantage and heterogeneous firms," IFS Working Papers W04/24, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  7. Autor, David & Dorn, David, 2012. "The Growth of Low Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the U.S. Labor Market," IZA Discussion Papers 7068, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Nicholas Bloom & Paul Romer & Stephen Terry & John Van Reenen, 2013. "A Trapped Factors Model of Innovation," CEP Discussion Papers dp1189, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  9. Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin M. Murphy, 1991. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," NBER Working Papers 3927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Michaels, Guy & Natraj, Ashwini & Van Reenen, John, 2010. "Has ICT Polarized Skill Demand? Evidence from Eleven Countries over 25 years," CEPR Discussion Papers 7898, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Ngai, Liwa Rachel & Pissarides, Christopher, 2004. "Structural Change in a Multi-Sector Model of Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 4763, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1279-1333.
  13. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U. S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-397.
  14. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2002. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization, and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 339-376.
  15. 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.
  16. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
  17. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2003. "Lousy and lovely jobs: the rising polarization of work in Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20002, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  18. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Increasing Residual Wage Inequality: Composition Effects, Noisy Data, or Rising Demand for Skill?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 461-498, June.
  19. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1991. "Quality Ladders and Product Cycles," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(2), pages 557-586.
  20. Giulia Faggio & Kjell Salvanes & John Van Reenen, 2007. "The Evolution of Inequality in Productivity and Wages: Panel Data Evidence," CEP Discussion Papers dp0821, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  21. Dale W. Jorgenson & Mun S. Ho & Kevin J. Stiroh, 2008. "A Retrospective Look at the U.S. Productivity Growth Resurgence," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
  22. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," NBER Working Papers 8769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Stephen Machin & John Van Reenen, 1998. "Technology and Changes in Skill Structure: Evidence from Seven OECD Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1215-1244.
  24. Caroli, Eve & Van Reenen, John, 1999. "Skill biased organizational change? Evidence from a panel of British and French establishments," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9917, CEPREMAP.
  25. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier, 2006. "Why Has CEO Pay Increased So Much?," NBER Working Papers 12365, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning & Anna Salomons, 2009. "Job Polarization in Europe," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 58-63, May.
  27. Mathias Thoenig & Thierry Verdier, 2003. "A Theory of Defensive Skill-Biased Innovation and Globalization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 709-728, June.
  28. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2003. "Lousy and Lovely Jobs: the Rising Polarization of Work in Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0604, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  29. Nick Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2006. "Measuring and explaining management practices across firms and countries," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 733, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  30. Timothy Dunne & Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & Kenneth R. Troske, 2004. "Wage and Productivity Dispersion in United States Manufacturing: The Role of Computer Investment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 397-430, April.
  31. Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 7800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  32. Shaw, Kathryn, 2009. "Insider econometrics: A roadmap with stops along the way," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 607-617, December.
  33. Brian Bell & John Van Reenen, 2010. "Bankers' Pay and Extreme Wage Inequality in the UK," CEP Special Papers 21, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  34. Desjonqueres, Thibaut & Machin, Stephen & Van Reenen, John, 1999. " Another Nail in the Coffin? Or Can the Trade Based Explanation of Changing Skill Structures Be Resurrected?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 101(4), pages 533-54, December.
  35. Nordhaus, William D., 2007. "Two Centuries of Productivity Growth in Computing," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(01), pages 128-159, March.
  36. Tinbergen, Jan, 1974. "Substitution of Graduate by Other Labour," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(2), pages 217-26.
  37. Richard B. Freeman, 1995. "Are Your Wages Set in Beijing?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 15-32, Summer.
  38. Ann Bartel & Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn Shaw, 2007. "How Does Information Technology Affect Productivity? Plant-Level Comparisons of Product Innovation, Process Improvement, and Worker Skills," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1721-1758.
  39. 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.
  40. Wojciech Kopczuk & Emmanuel Saez & Jae Song, 2010. "Earnings Inequality and Mobility in the United States: Evidence from Social Security Data Since 1937," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 91-128.
  41. 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.
  42. David S. Lee, 1999. "Wage Inequality in the United States During the 1980s: Rising Dispersion or Falling Minimum Wage?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 977-1023.
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:cepops:28. 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.