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Has technology hurt less skilled workers? A survey of the micro-econometric evidence

Author

Listed:
  • Lucy Chennells

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

  • John Van Reenen

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

Abstract

There is a growing concern in advanced countries that the position of less skilled workers has deteriorated, either through their ability to secure jobs and/or their ability to earn a decent wage. Some have linked this decline to modern computing technologies. This paper surveys the evidence on the effects of technical change on skills, wages and employment by examining the micro-econometric evidence (we take this to include studies at the industry, firm, plant and individual levels). We focus on over 70 empirical studies that have used direct measures of technology (rather than associating technology with a residual time trend). We first point to three basic methodological problems relating to endogeneity, fixed effects and measurement. Our survey comes to the following tentative conclusions: (i) there is a strong effect of technology on skills in the cross section which appears reasonably robust to various econometric problems; (ii) there is a strong effect of diffusion of technologies on wages in the cross section which is not robust to endogeneity and fixed effects; (iii) at the firm level product innovations appear to raise employment growth, but there is no clear evidence of a robust effect (either positive or negative) of process innovations or R&D on jobs.

Suggested Citation

  • Lucy Chennells & John Van Reenen, 1999. "Has technology hurt less skilled workers? A survey of the micro-econometric evidence," IFS Working Papers W99/27, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:99/27
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    File URL: http://www.ifs.org.uk/wps/wp9927.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Allen, Steven G, 2001. "Technology and the Wage Structure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 440-483, April.
    2. Ann P. Bartel & Nachum Sicherman, 1999. "Technological Change and Wages: An Interindustry Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 285-325, April.
    3. Bartel, Ann P & Sicherman, Nachum, 1998. "Technological Change and the Skill Acquisition of Young Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(4), pages 718-755, October.
    4. James D Adams, 1997. "The Structure of Firm R&D and the Factor Intensity of Production," Working Papers 97-15, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    5. Bartel, Ann P & Lichtenberg, Frank R, 1987. "The Comparative Advantage of Educated Workers in Implementing New Technology," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(1), pages 1-11, February.
    6. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Taylor, Karl & Driffield, Nigel, 2005. "Wage inequality and the role of multinationals: evidence from UK panel data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 223-249, April.
    2. Ziesemer, Thomas, 2001. "ICT as Technical Change in the Matching and Production Functions of a Pissarides-Dixit-Stiglitz model," Research Memorandum 024, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    3. Mauro Caselli, 2014. "Trade, skill-biased technical change and wages in Mexican manufacturing," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(3), pages 336-348, January.
    4. Karen Mumford & Peter N Smith, "undated". "The Gender Earnings Gap in Britain," Discussion Papers 04/05, Department of Economics, University of York.
    5. Spitz, Alexandra, 2004. "Are Skill Requirements in the Workplace Rising? Stylized Facts and Evidence on Skill-Biased Technological Change," ZEW Discussion Papers 04-33, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    6. Sandra E. Black & Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 2010. "Explaining Women's Success: Technological Change and the Skill Content of Women's Work," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 187-194, February.
    7. Satu Nurmi, 2006. "Sectoral Differences in Plant Start-up Size in the Finnish Economy," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 39-60, February.
    8. Adriana Peluffo, 2015. "Foreign Direct Investment, Productivity, Demand for Skilled Labour and Wage Inequality: An Analysis of Uruguay," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(6), pages 962-983, June.
    9. Falk, Martin & Koebel, Bertrand M., 2004. "The impact of office machinery, and computer capital on the demand for heterogeneous labour," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 99-117, February.
    10. Falk, Martin, 2001. "Diffusion of information technology, internet use and the demand of heterogeneous labor," ZEW Discussion Papers 01-48, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    11. Carsten Ochsen, 2006. "Zukunft der Arbeit und Arbeit der Zukunft in Deutschland," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 7(2), pages 173-193, May.
    12. Piergiuseppe Morone, 2006. "The two faces of knowledge diffusion: the Chilean case," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(1), pages 29-50.
    13. Hollanders, Hugo & ter Weel, Bas, 2002. "Technology, knowledge spillovers and changes in employment structure: evidence from six OECD countries," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(5), pages 579-599, November.
    14. Görg, Holger & Strobl, Eric, 2002. "Relative Wages, Openness and Skill-Biased Technological Change," IZA Discussion Papers 596, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    15. Uschi Backes-Gellner & Johannes Mure & Simone Tuor, 2006. "The Puzzle of Non-Participation in Continuing Training – An Empirical Study of Permanent vs. Occasional Non-Participation," Working Papers 0058, University of Zurich, Institute for Strategy and Business Economics (ISU).
    16. Hempell, Thomas, 2003. "Do Computers Call for Training? Firm-level Evidence on Complementarities Between ICT and Human Capital Investments," ZEW Discussion Papers 03-20, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    17. Spitz-Oener, Alexandra, 2007. "The Returns to Pencil Use Revisited," ZEW Discussion Papers 07-020, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    18. Kjersti-Gro Lindquist & Terje Skjerpen, 2000. "Explaining the change in skill structure of labour demand in Norwegian manufacturing," Discussion Papers 293, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    19. Spitz, Alexandra, 2003. "IT Capital, Job Content and Educational Attainment," ZEW Discussion Papers 03-04, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    20. Hijzen, Alexander & Görg, Holger & Hine, Robert C., 2003. "International Fragmentation and Relative Wages in the UK," IZA Discussion Papers 717, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    21. Thomas Brenner & Christian Cordes, 2004. "The autocatalytic character of the growth of production knowledge: What role does human labor play?," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2004-12, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Employment; Wages; Skills; Technology;

    JEL classification:

    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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