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Investment-specific Technical Change and the Dynamics of Skill Accumulation and Wage Inequality

  • Hui He
  • Zheng Liu

Wage inequality between education groups in the United States has increased substantially since the early 1980s. The relative quantity of college-educated workers has also increased dramatically in the postwar period. This paper presents a unified framework where the dynamics of both skill accumulation and wage inequality arise as an equilibrium outcome driven by measured investment-specific technological change. Working through capital-skill complementarity and endogenous skill accumulation, the model is able to account for much of the observed changes in the relative quantity of skilled workers. The model also does well in replicating the observed rise in wage inequality since the early 1980s. Based on the calibrated model, we examine the quantitative effects of some hypothetical tax-policy reforms on skill formation, inequality, and welfare.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta) in its series Emory Economics with number 0609.

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Date of creation: Aug 2006
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Handle: RePEc:emo:wp2003:0609
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  8. McGrattan, Ellen R., 1994. "The macroeconomic effects of distortionary taxation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 573-601, June.
  9. James J. Heckman & Lance Lochner & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Explaining Rising Wage Inequality: Explorations with a Dynamic General Equilibrium Model of Labor Earnings with Heterogeneous Agents," NBER Working Papers 6384, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
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  13. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & JosÈ-Victor RÌos-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 2000. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and Inequality: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1029-1054, September.
  14. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-22, May.
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  18. Enrique G. Mendoza & Assaf Razin & Linda L. Tesar, 1994. "Effective Tax Rates in Macroeconomics: Cross-Country Estimates of Tax Rates on Factor Incomes and Consumption," NBER Working Papers 4864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Acemoglu, Daron, 1997. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change and Wage Inequality," CEPR Discussion Papers 1707, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  23. William Blankenau, 1999. "A Welfare Analysis of Policy Responses to the Skilled Wage Premium," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(4), pages 820-849, October.
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  25. Griliches, Zvi, 1969. "Capital-Skill Complementarity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(4), pages 465-68, November.
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