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Cyclical Skill-Biased Technological Change


  • Balleer, Almut

    () (RWTH Aachen University)

  • van Rens, Thijs

    () (University of Warwick)


Over the past two decades, technological progress has been biased towards making skilled labor more productive. What does skill-biased technological change imply for business cycles? To answer this question, we construct a quarterly series for the skill premium from the CPS and use it to identify skill-biased technology shocks in a VAR with long run restrictions. We find that hours worked fall in response to skill-biased, but not in response to skill-neutral improvements in technology. Skill-biased technology shocks are associated with increases in the relative price of investment, indicating that capital and skill are substitutes in aggregate production.

Suggested Citation

  • Balleer, Almut & van Rens, Thijs, 2009. "Cyclical Skill-Biased Technological Change," IZA Discussion Papers 4258, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4258

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jordi Galí & Pau Rabanal, 2005. "Technology Shocks and Aggregate Fluctuations: How Well Does the Real Business Cycle Model Fit Postwar U.S. Data?," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2004, Volume 19, pages 225-318 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Miles S. Kimball & John G. Fernald & Susanto Basu, 2006. "Are Technology Improvements Contractionary?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1418-1448, December.
    3. repec:ucp:bknber:9780226304557 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Coen Teulings & Thijs van Rens, 2008. "Education, Growth, and Income Inequality," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(1), pages 89-104, February.
    5. Jordi Gali, 1999. "Technology, Employment, and the Business Cycle: Do Technology Shocks Explain Aggregate Fluctuations?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 249-271, March.
    6. Gary Solon & Robert Barsky & Jonathan A. Parker, 1994. "Measuring the Cyclicality of Real Wages: How Important is Composition Bias?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(1), pages 1-25.
    7. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    8. Matthew J. Lindquist, 2004. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and Inequality Over the Business Cycle," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 7(3), pages 519-540, July.
    9. Michael P. Keane & Eswar S. Prasad, 1991. "The relation between skill levels and the cyclical variability of employment, hours and wages," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 41, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    10. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Robert Vigfusson, 2003. "What Happens After a Technology Shock?," NBER Working Papers 9819, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Chari, V.V. & Kehoe, Patrick J. & McGrattan, Ellen R., 2008. "Are structural VARs with long-run restrictions useful in developing business cycle theory?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(8), pages 1337-1352, November.
    12. Jaeger, David A, 1997. "Reconciling the Old and New Census Bureau Education Questions: Recommendations for Researchers," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 15(3), pages 300-309, July.
    13. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & JosÈ-Victor RÌos-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 2000. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and Inequality: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1029-1054, September.
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    15. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
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    17. John G. Fernald, 2012. "A quarterly, utilization-adjusted series on total factor productivity," Working Paper Series 2012-19, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cantore, C. & Ferroni, F. & León-Ledesma, M A., 2011. "Interpreting the Hours-Technology time-varying relationship," Working papers 351, Banque de France.
    2. Cantore, Cristiano & Ferroni, Filippo & León-Ledesma, Miguel A., 2017. "The dynamics of hours worked and technology," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 67-82.
    3. Balleer, Almut & Enders, Zeno, 2013. "Expansionary and Contractionary Technology Improvements," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 80046, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    4. Sparber, Chad & Fan, Jasmine Sijie, 2011. "Unemployment, Skills, and the Business Cycle Since 2000," Working Papers 2011-04, Department of Economics, Colgate University, revised 12 Sep 2012.
    5. Zeno Enders & Almut Balleer, 2012. "Expansionary and Contractionary Technology Shocks," 2012 Meeting Papers 812, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Balleer, Almut, 2009. "New evidence, old puzzles: technology shocks and labor market dynamics," Kiel Working Papers 1500, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).

    More about this item


    long-run restrictions; skill premium; VAR; skill-biased technology; capital-skill complementarity; business cycle;

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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