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Product Demand Shifts and Wage Inequality

  • Leonardi, Marco

    (London School of Economics)

The UK and the US have experienced both rising skill premia and rising employment of skilled workers since the 1980s. These trends are typically interpreted as concurrent shifts of relative skill supplies and demands, and the demand shifts are attributed to skill biased technological change or changes in international trade patterns. If more skilled workers demand more skill intensive goods, then an exogenous increase in relative skill supplies will also induce a shift in relative demand. This channel reduces the need to rely on technology and trade to explain the patterns in the data. In this paper, I illustrate this mechanism in a simple two-sector general equilibrium model. The empirical part of the paper demonstrates that more educated and richer workers indeed demand more skill intensive goods in the UK. Calibration of the model suggests that this induced demand shift can explain 12% of the total relative demand shift in the UK between 1981 and 1993. The baseline model only explains between industry shifts in skill upgrading and wage inequality, while empirically, most of these changes took place within industries. An extension of the model with different qualities of goods and labor is also able to explain some of the within industry changes.

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Paper provided by Royal Economic Society in its series Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2002 with number 125.

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Date of creation: 29 Aug 2002
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Handle: RePEc:ecj:ac2002:125
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  1. Katz, L.F. & Murphy, K.M., 1991. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1580, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Machin, Stephen, 1997. "Implications of Skill-Biased Technological Change: International Evidence," Working Paper Series 486, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  3. Acemoglu, D., 1996. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," Working papers 96-15, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. 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.
  5. Alan Krueger, 1997. "Labor Market Shifts and the Price Puzzle Revisited," Working Papers 754, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  6. Kiley, Michael T, 1999. "The Supply of Skilled Labour and Skill-Biased Technological Progress," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(458), pages 708-24, October.
  7. Stephen Machin & John Van Reenen, 1998. "Technology and changes in skill structure: evidence from seven OECD countries," IFS Working Papers W98/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  8. Francesco Caselli, 1999. "Technological Revolutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 78-102, March.
  9. Machin, Stephen, 1996. "Wage Inequality in the UK," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 47-64, Spring.
  10. Wood, Adrian, 1995. "North-South Trade, Employment and Inequality: Changing Fortunes in a Skill-Driven World," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198290155, March.
  11. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed The Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213, November.
  12. Acemoglu, D., 1997. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change and Wage Inequality," Working papers 97-14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  13. Blundell, Richard & Pashardes, Panos & Weber, Guglielmo, 1993. "What Do We Learn About Consumer Demand Patterns from Micro Data?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 570-97, June.
  14. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Howard J. Shatz, 1994. "Trade and Jobs in Manufacturing," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(1), pages 1-84.
  15. Deaton, Angus S & Muellbauer, John, 1980. "An Almost Ideal Demand System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 312-26, June.
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