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

  • Matthias Weiss

    ()

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

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.

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Paper provided by Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in its series MEA discussion paper series with number 04045.

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Date of creation: 30 Mar 2004
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Handle: RePEc:mea:meawpa:04045
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  1. Richard Dickens & David T. Ellwood, 2001. "Whither Poverty in Great Britain and the United States? The Determinants of Changing Poverty and Whether Work Will Work," NBER Working Papers 8253, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  13. Mary Daly & Rob Valletta, 2003. "Earnings inequality and earnings mobility in the U.S," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue sep26.
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  17. Weiss, Matthias, 2008. "Skill-biased technological change: Is there hope for the unskilled?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(3), pages 439-441, September.
  18. Paul Beaudry & David A. Green, 2005. "Changes in U.S. Wages, 19762000: Ongoing Skill Bias or Major Technological Change?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(3), pages 609-648, July.
  19. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
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