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Skill-Biased Technological Change: Is there Hope for the Unskilled?

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  • Matthias Weiss

    () (Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA))

Abstract

This paper challenges the common view that skill-biased technological change boosts wage inequality. In a multi-sector economy, relative wages depend not only on relative productivities but also on relative goods prices. If there are complementarities between goods that do not benefit greatly from technological innovations and other goods whose production costs fall in the course of technical progress, the relative price of these "low-tech" goods rises. If the production of these "low-tech" goods is intensive in the use of unskilled labor, unskilled workers benefit from this increase in the relative goods price. This paper presents a simple two-sector, two-factor model of perpetual exogenous skill-biased technological change. The model is able to explain the increase in wage inequality in the 1980s and the subsequent stabilization of the wage structure in the 1990s.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthias Weiss, 2004. "Skill-Biased Technological Change: Is there Hope for the Unskilled?," MEA discussion paper series 04045, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:mea:meawpa:04045
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Jaewon Jung & Jean Mercenier, 2010. "Routinization-Biased Technical Change, Globalization and Labor Market Polarization: Does Theory Fit the Facts?," Working Papers 13/2010, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
    2. Ravi Batra & Hamid Beladi & Reza Oladi, 2013. "Technical Progress and Real Wages Once again," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(3), pages 506-518, August.
    3. Autor, David & Dorn, David, 2009. "Inequality and Specialization: The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 4290, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. van de Klundert, Theo, 2008. "Looking back, looking ahead: Biased technological change, substitution and the wage gap," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 707-713, June.
    5. Melanie Lührmann & Matthias Weiss, 2006. "Market Work, Home Production, Consumer Demand and Unemployment among the Unskilled," MEA discussion paper series 06101, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    6. Ghignoni, Emanuela & Verashchagina, Alina, 2014. "Educational qualifications mismatch in Europe. Is it demand or supply driven?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 670-692.
    7. Charlotte Senftleben & Hanna Wielandt, 2012. "The Polarization of Employment in German Local Labor Markets," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2012-013, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
    8. David H. Autor & David Dorn, 2013. "The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the US Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(5), pages 1553-1597, August.
    9. David H. Autor & Michael J. Handel, 2013. "Putting Tasks to the Test: Human Capital, Job Tasks, and Wages," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(S1), pages 59-96.
    10. Acemoglu, Daron & Autor, David, 2011. "Skills, Tasks and Technologies: Implications for Employment and Earnings," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    11. Lührmann, Melanie & Weiss, Matthias, 2010. "The effect of working time and labor force participation on unemployment: A new argument in an old debate," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 67-82, January.
    12. repec:unu:wpaper:wp2012-43 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Weiss, Matthias, 2008. "Skill-biased technological change: Is there hope for the unskilled?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(3), pages 439-441, September.
    14. Das, Gouranga, 2012. "Trans-border Land Acquisitions:A New Guise of Outsourcing and Host Country Effects," MPRA Paper 40651, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Wielandt, Hanna & Senftleben, Charlotte, 2012. "The Polarization of Employment in German Local Labor Markets," Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 62063, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    16. Ahmed S. Rahman, 2017. "Rise of the Machines Redux – Education, Technological Transition and Long-run Growth," Departmental Working Papers 61, United States Naval Academy Department of Economics.
    17. Das, Gouranga, 2012. "Trans-border Land Acquisitions: A New Guise of Outsourcing and Host Country Effects," WIDER Working Paper Series 043, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    18. Nicholas Rohde & Ross Guest, 2013. "Multidimensional Racial Inequality in the United States," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 114(2), pages 591-605, November.

    More about this item

    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
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General

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