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Crude substitution: the cyclical dynamics of oil prices and the college premium

  • Linnea Polgreen
  • Pedro Silos

Higher oil price shocks benefit unskilled workers relative to skilled workers: Over the business cycle, energy prices and the skill premium display a strong negative correlation. This correlation is robust to different detrending procedures. We construct and estimate a model economy with energy use and heterogeneous skills and study its business cycle implications, in particular the cyclical behavior of oil prices and the skill premium. In our model economy, the skill premium and the ratio of hours worked by skilled workers to hours worked by unskilled workers are both negatively correlated with oil prices over the business cycle. For the skill premium and energy prices to move in opposite directions, the key ingredient is the larger substitutability of capital for unskilled labor than for skilled labor. The negative correlation arises even when energy and capital are fairly good substitutes.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in its series Working Paper with number 2006-14.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2006-14
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  1. Lindquist, Matthew J., 2002. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and Inequality Over the Business Cycle," Research Papers in Economics 2002:14, Stockholm University, Department of Economics, revised 01 Sep 2003.
  2. Griliches, Zvi, 1969. "Capital-Skill Complementarity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(4), pages 465-68, November.
  3. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 1997. "Capital-skill complementarity and inequality: a macroeconomic analysis," Staff Report 239, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  4. Michael P. Keane & Eswar Prasad, 1995. "The Employment and Wage Effects of Oil Price Changes; A Sectoral Analysis," IMF Working Papers 95/37, International Monetary Fund.
  5. Morrison, C. J. & Berndt, E. R., 1981. "Short-run labor productivity in a dynamic model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 339-365, August.
  6. Ana Castaneda & Javier Diaz-Gimenez & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2003. "Accounting for the U.S. Earnings and Wealth Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(4), pages 818-857, August.
  7. Klein, Paul, 2000. "Using the generalized Schur form to solve a multivariate linear rational expectations model," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 24(10), pages 1405-1423, September.
  8. In-Moo Kim & Prakash Loungani, 1991. "The role of energy in real business cycle models," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 91-6, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  9. 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.
  10. Eswar Prasad, 1996. "Skill Heterogeneity and the Business Cycle," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(4), pages 910-29, November.
  11. Robert S. Pindyck, 1979. "The Structure of World Energy Demand," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661772, June.
  12. Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde & Juan F. Rubio-Ramirez, 2004. "Estimating Dynamic Equilibrium Economies: Linear and Nonlinear Likelihood," 2004 Meeting Papers 59, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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