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U.S. wages in general equilibrium: the effects of prices, technology and factor supplies, 1963-1991

  • James Harrigan
  • Rita A. Balaban

Wage inequality in the United States has increased in the past two decades, and most researchers suspect that the main causes are changes in technology, international competition, and factor supplies. The relative importance of these causes in explaining wage inequality is important for policy making and is controversial, partly because there has been no research which has directly estimated the joint impact of these different causes. In this paper, we view wages as arising out of a competitive general equilibrium where goods prices, technology and factor supplies jointly determine outputs and factor prices. We specify an empirical model which allows us to estimate the general equilibrium relationship between wages and technology, prices, and factor supplies. The model is based on the neoclassical theory of production, and is implemented by assuming that GDP is a function of prices, technology levels, and supplies of capital and different types of labor. We treat final goods prices as being partially determined in international markets, and we use data on trends in the international economy as instruments for U.S. prices. We find that relative factor supply and relative price changes are both important in explaining the growing return to skill. In particular, we find that capital accumulation and the fall in the price of traded goods served to increase the return to education.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 64.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:64
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  1. Berndt, Ernst R & Savin, N Eugene, 1975. "Estimation and Hypothesis Testing in Singular Equation Systems with Autoregressive Disturbances," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(5-6), pages 937-57, Sept.-Nov.
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  15. James Harrigan, 1996. "Technology, factor supplies, and international specialization: estimating the neoclassical model," Staff Reports 15, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  16. 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.
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  18. Hakura, D. & Deardorff, A.V., 1993. "Trade and Wages: What Are the Questions?," Working Papers 341, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
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  24. repec:fth:harver:1487 is not listed on IDEAS
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