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

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  • James Harrigan
  • Rita A. Balaban

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • James Harrigan & Rita A. Balaban, 1999. "U.S. wages in general equilibrium: the effects of prices, technology and factor supplies, 1963-1991," Staff Reports 64, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:64
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Robbins, Donald J., 2003. "The impact of trade liberalization upon inequality in developing countries : a review of theory and evidence," ILO Working Papers 993650553402676, International Labour Organization.
    2. Robert Feenstra & Gordon Hanson, 2001. "Global Production Sharing and Rising Inequality: A Survey of Trade and Wages," NBER Working Papers 8372, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Dawood Mamoon, 2006. "Which Institutions Are More Relevant Than Others in Inequality Mitigation?," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 45(4), pages 893-912.
    4. Yoshinori Kurokawa, 2014. "A Survey Of Trade And Wage Inequality: Anomalies, Resolutions And New Trends," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(1), pages 169-193, February.
    5. Manoj Atolia & Yoshinori Kurokawa, 2008. "Variety Trade and Skill Premium in a Calibrated General Equilibrium Model: The Case of Mexico," Working Papers wp2008_11_03, Department of Economics, Florida State University.
    6. Blum, Bernardo S., 2008. "Trade, technology, and the rise of the service sector: The effects on US wage inequality," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 441-458, March.
    7. repec:ilo:ilowps:365055 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Wages ; Education ; Technology ; Prices;

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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