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Specialization and the skill premium in the 20th century

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  • Matthew F. Mitchell

Abstract

The skill premium fell substantially in the first part of the 20th century, and then rose at the end of the century. I argue that these changes are connected to the organization of production. When production is organized into large plants, jobs become routinized, favoring less skilled workers. Building on the notion that numerically controlled machines made capital more ?flexible? at the end of the century, the model allows for changes in the ability of capital to do a wide variety of tasks. When calibrated to data on the distribution of plant sizes, the model can account for between half and two-thirds of the movement in the skill premium over the century. It is also in accord with a variety of industry level evidence.

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  • Matthew F. Mitchell, 2001. "Specialization and the skill premium in the 20th century," Staff Report 290, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:290
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    Cited by:

    1. Volker Meier & Ioana Cosmina Schiopu, 2015. "Why Academic Quality in Higher Education Declines," CESifo Working Paper Series 5480, CESifo.
    2. Yoshinori Kurokawa, 2011. "Variety-skill complementarity: a simple resolution of the trade-wage inequality anomaly," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 46(2), pages 297-325, February.
    3. Peng, Fei & Anwar, Sajid & Kang, Lili, 2017. "New technology and old institutions: An empirical analysis of the skill-biased demand for older workers in Europe," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 1-19.
    4. Dogan, Can & Akay, Gokhan H., 2019. "The role of labor endowments on industry output in the short run: Evidence from U.S industries," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 281-291.
    5. Kausik Gangopadhyay & Atsushi Nishimura & Rupayan Pal, 2012. "Co-movement of Skill Premium and Stock Prices," Working Papers id:5174, eSocialSciences.
    6. Gangopadhyay, Kausik & Nishimura, Atsushi & Pal, Rupayan, 2016. "Can the information technology revolution explain the incidence of co-movement of skill premium and stock prices?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 107-120.
    7. Meier, Volker & Schiopu, Ioana, 2015. "Optimal higher education enrollment and productivity externalities in a two-sector model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 1-13.
    8. Thomas J. Holmes & Matthew F. Mitchell, 2008. "A theory of factor allocation and plant size," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(2), pages 329-351, June.
    9. Atolia Manoj & Kurokawa Yoshinori, 2021. "Entry Costs, Task Variety, and Skill Flexibility: A Simple Theory of (Top) Income Skewness," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 21(1), pages 97-124, January.
    10. Hornstein, Andreas & Krusell, Per & Violante, Giovanni L., 2005. "The Effects of Technical Change on Labor Market Inequalities," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 20, pages 1275-1370, Elsevier.
    11. Kurokawa, Yoshinori, 2010. "Fixed cost, number of firms, and skill premium: An alternative source for rising wage inequality," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 108(2), pages 141-144, August.
    12. Hynninen, Sanna-Mari & Ojala, Jari & Pehkonen, Jaakko, 2013. "Technological change and wage premiums: Historical evidence from linked employer–employee data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 1-11.
    13. repec:pri:cepsud:113krusell is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Yoshinori Kurokawa, 2014. "A Simple Model of Competition Policies, Trade, and the Skill Premium," Tsukuba Economics Working Papers 2014-002, Economics, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba, revised Apr 2020.
    15. Sandén, Klas, 2007. "Shutdown Threats, Firm Fragmentation and the Skill Premium," Working Papers in Economics 265, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    16. Sushanta K. MALLICK & Ricardo M. SOUSA, 2017. "The skill premium effect of technological change: New evidence from United States manufacturing," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 156(1), pages 113-131, March.
    17. Andreas Hornstein & Per Krusell & Giovanni L. Violante, 2005. "The Effects of Technical Change on Labor Market Inequalities," Working Papers 89, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
    18. Atolia, Manoj & Kurokawa, Yoshinori, 2016. "The impact of trade margins on the skill premium: Evidence from Mexico," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 895-915.
    19. Richard Walker, 2005. "Superstars and Renaissance Men: Specialization, Market Size and the Income Distribution," CEP Discussion Papers dp0707, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    20. Sushanta K. Mallick & Ricardo M. Sousa, 2012. "Is Technology Factor-Neutral? Evidence from the US Manufacturing Sector," NIPE Working Papers 26/2012, NIPE - Universidade do Minho.
    21. Meier, Volker & Schiopu, Ioana, 2020. "Enrollment expansion and quality differentiation across higher education systems," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 43-53.
    22. Walker, Richard, 2005. "Superstars and renaissance men: specialization, market size and the income distribution," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19880, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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