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Educational Upgrading and Returns to Skills in Latin America: Evidence from a Supply-Demand Framework, 1990-2010

  • Gasparini, Leonardo

    ()

    (CEDLAS-UNLP)

  • Galiani, Sebastian

    ()

    (University of Maryland)

  • Cruces, Guillermo

    ()

    (CEDLAS-UNLP)

  • Acosta, Pablo A.

    ()

    (World Bank)

It has been argued that a factor behind the decline in income inequality in Latin America in the 2000s was the educational upgrading of its labor force. Between 1990 and 2010, the proportion of the labor force in the region with at least secondary education increased from 40 to 60 percent. Concurrently, returns to secondary education completion fell throughout the past two decades, while the 2000s saw a reversal in the increase in the returns to tertiary education experienced in the 1990s. This paper studies the evolution of wage differentials and the trends in the supply of workers by educational level for 16 Latin American countries between 1990 and 2000. The analysis estimates the relative contribution of supply and demand factors behind recent trends in skill premia for tertiary and secondary educated workers. Supply-side factors seem to have limited explanatory power relative to demand-side factors, and are only relevant to explain part of the fall in wage premia for high-school graduates. Although there is significant heterogeneity in individual country experiences, on average the trend reversal in labor demand in the 2000s can be partially attributed to the recent boom in commodity prices that could favor the unskilled (non-tertiary educated) workforce, although employment patterns by sector suggest that other within-sector forces are also at play, such as technological diffusion or skill mismatches that may reduce the labor productivity of highly-educated workers.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 6244.

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Length: 54 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6244
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  1. Orazio Attanasio & Pinelopi Goldberg & Nina Pavcnik, 2003. "Trade Reforms and Wage Inequiality in Colombia," NBER Working Papers 9830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Guillermo Cruces & Leonardo Gasparini, 2008. "A Distribution in Motion: The Case of Argentina," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0078, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
  3. Brambilla, Irene & Carneiro, Rafael Dix & Lederman, Daniel & Porto, Guido, 2010. "Skills, exports, and the wages of five million Latin American workers," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5246, The World Bank.
  4. Manoj Atolia, 2002. "Trade Liberalization and Rising Wage Inequality in Latin America: Reconciliation with HOS Theory," Working Papers wp2002_03_01, Department of Economics, Florida State University, revised Feb 2006.
  5. Leonardo Gasparini & Nora Lustig, 2011. "The rise and fall of income inequality in Latin America," Working Papers 213, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  6. Guillermo Cruces & Carolina García Domench & Leonardo Gasparini, 2012. "Inequality in Education: Evidence for Latin America," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0135, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
  7. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2007. "The Race between Education and Technology: The Evolution of U.S. Educational Wage Differentials, 1890 to 2005," NBER Working Papers 12984, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Daron Acemoglu & David Autor, 2010. "Skills, Tasks and Technologies: Implications for Employment and Earnings," NBER Working Papers 16082, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Leonardo Gasparini & Guillero Cruces & Leopoldo Tornarolli, 2011. "Recent Trends In Income Inequality In Latin America," JOURNAL OF LACEA ECONOMIA, LACEA - LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION.
  10. Lindley, Joanne & Machin, Stephen, 2011. "Rising Wage Inequality and Postgraduate Education," IZA Discussion Papers 5981, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Gindling, T.H. & Terrell, Katherine, 2005. "The effect of minimum wages on actual wages in formal and informal sectors in Costa Rica," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(11), pages 1905-1921, November.
  12. Harrison, Ann & Hanson, Gordon, 1999. "Who gains from trade reform? Some remaining puzzles," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 125-154, June.
  13. Marco Manacorda & Carolina Sánchez-Páramo & Norbert Schady, 2010. "Changes in Returns to Education in Latin America: The Role of Demand and Supply of Skills," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 63(2), pages 307-326, January.
  14. Galiani, Sebastian & Sanguinetti, Pablo, 2003. "The impact of trade liberalization on wage inequality: evidence from Argentina," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 497-513, December.
  15. Gabriel Montes Rojas, 2006. "Skill premia in Mexico: demand and supply factors," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(14), pages 917-924.
  16. Robert J. Barro & Jong-Wha Lee, 2010. "A New Data Set of Educational Attainment in the World, 1950-2010," NBER Working Papers 15902, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Ferreira, Francisco H.G. & Leite, Phillippe G. & Wai-Poi, Matthew, 2007. "Trade Liberalization, Employment Flows and Wage Inequality in Brazil," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  18. Pablo Acosta & Leonardo Gasparini, 2007. "Capital Accumulation, Trade Liberalization, and Rising Wage Inequality: The Case of Argentina," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55, pages 793-812.
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