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Are Computer Skills the New Basic Skills? The Returns to Computer, Writing and Math Skills in Britain

Author

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  • Borghans, Lex

    () (Maastricht University)

  • ter Weel, Bas

    () (SEO Amsterdam)

Abstract

The large increase in computer use has raised the question whether people have to be taught computer skills before entering the labour market. Using data from the 1997 Skills Survey of the Employed British Workforce, we argue that neither the increase in computer use nor the fact that particularly higher skilled workers use a computer provides evidence that computer skills are valuable. We compare computer skills with writing and math skills and test whether wages vary with computer skills, given the specific use that is made of computers. The regression results show that while the ability to write documents and to carry out mathematical analyses yields significant labour-market returns, the ability to effectively use a computer has no substantial impact on wages. These estimates suggest that writing and math can be regarded as basic skills, but that the higher wages of computer users are unrelated to computer skills.

Suggested Citation

  • Borghans, Lex & ter Weel, Bas, 2003. "Are Computer Skills the New Basic Skills? The Returns to Computer, Writing and Math Skills in Britain," IZA Discussion Papers 751, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp751
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Lex Borghans & Bas ter Weel, 2011. "Computers, skills and wages," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(29), pages 4607-4622.
    2. Alan B. Krueger, 1993. "How Computers Have Changed the Wage Structure: Evidence from Microdata, 1984–1989," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(1), pages 33-60.
    3. Entorf, Horst & Gollac, Michel & Kramarz, Francis, 1999. "New Technologies, Wages, and Worker Selection," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(3), pages 464-491, July.
    4. Mark Doms & Timothy Dunne & Kenneth R. Troske, 1997. "Workers, Wages, and Technology," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 253-290.
    5. Brian D. Bell, "undated". "Skill-Biased Technical Change and Wages: Evidence from a Longitudinal Data Se," Economics Papers W25., Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    6. Borghans,Lex & Weel,Bas,ter, 2002. "Do Older Workers Have More Trouble Using a Computer Than Younger Workers?," ROA Research Memorandum 003, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
    7. John E. DiNardo & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 1997. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 291-303.
    8. Entorf, Horst & Kramarz, Francis, 1997. "Does unmeasured ability explain the higher wages of new technology workers?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(8), pages 1489-1509, August.
    9. Chennells, Lucy & Van Reenen, John, 1997. "Technical Change and Earnings in British Establishments," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 64(256), pages 587-604, November.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Ponzo, Michela, 2010. "Does the Way in which Students Use Computers Matter for their Performance?," MPRA Paper 25483, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2005. "Computer Skills, Destination Language Proficiency and the Earnings of Natives and Immigrants," IZA Discussion Papers 1755, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Borghans, Lex & ter Weel, Bas, 2007. "The diffusion of computers and the distribution of wages," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 715-748, April.
    4. Ng, Ying Chu, 2006. "Levels of computer self-efficacy, computer use and earnings in China," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 427-432, March.
    5. Thomas Fuchs & Ludger Wossmann, 2004. "Computers and student learning: bivariate and multivariate evidence on the availability and use of computers at home and at school," Brussels Economic Review, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles, vol. 47(3-4), pages 359-386.
    6. Lex Borghans & Hans Heijke, 2005. "The production and use of human capital: Introduction," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(2), pages 133-142.
    7. Michael J. Handel, 2016. "What do people do at work?
      [Was machen Menschen bei der Arbeit?]
      ," Journal for Labour Market Research, Springer;Institute for Employment Research/ Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), vol. 49(2), pages 177-197, October.
    8. Maria Cubel & Ana Nuevo‐Chiquero & Santiago Sanchez‐Pages & Marian Vidal‐Fernandez, 2016. "Do Personality Traits Affect Productivity? Evidence from the Laboratory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 0(592), pages 654-681, May.
    9. Borghans, Lex & ter Weel, Bas, 2004. "What happens when agent T gets a computer?: The labor market impact of cost efficient computer adoption," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 137-151, June.
    10. Ganna Vakhitova & Christopher R. Bollinger, 2011. "Labor Market Return to Computer Skills: Using Microsoft Certification to Measure Computer Skills," Discussion Papers 46, Kyiv School of Economics.
    11. repec:spr:italej:v:3:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s40797-016-0046-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Andries de Grip & Inge Sieben, 2005. "The effects of human resource management on small firms' productivity and employees' wages," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(9), pages 1047-1054.
    13. Thomas Fuchs & Ludger Wößmann, 2005. "Computer können das Lernen behindern," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 58(18), pages 16-23, September.
    14. Catherine Rodríguez Orgales & Fabio Sánchez Torres & Juliana Márquez Zúñiga, 2011. "Impacto del Programa Computadores para Educar" en la deserción estudiantil, el logro escolar y el ingreso a la educación superior"," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 008744, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    15. Paola Gritti & Riccardo Leoni, 2013. "The impact on wages of generic competencies, psychological capital, new work practices and digital technologies," Working Papers (2013-) 1301, University of Bergamo, Department of Management, Economics and Quantitative Methods.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    computer use and skill; wage differentials by skill;

    JEL classification:

    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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