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Wage Dispersion, Returns to Skill, and Black-White Wage Differentials

  • David Card
  • Thomas Lemieux

During the 1980s wage differentials between younger and older workers and between more and less educated workers expanded rapidly. Wage dispersion among individuals with the same age and education also rose. A simple explanation for both sets of facts is that earnings represent a return to a one-dimensional index of skill, and that the rate of return to skill rose over the decade. We explore a simple method for estimating and testing 'single index' models of wages. Our approach integrates 3 dimensions of skill: age, education, and unobserved ability. We find that a one-dimensional skill model gives a relatively successful account of changes in the structure of wages for white men and women between 1979 and 1989. We then use the estimated models for whites to analyze recent changes in the relative wages of black men and women.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w4365.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4365.

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Date of creation: May 1993
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Publication status: published as Journal of Econometrics, vol.74, pp.319-361, October 1996.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4365
Note: LS
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Bound, John & Freeman, Richard B, 1992. "What Went Wrong? The Erosion of Relative Earnings and Employment among Young Black Men in the 1980s," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 201-32, February.
  2. Smith, James P & Welch, Finis R, 1989. "Black Economic Progress after Myrdal," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 519-64, June.
  3. Krueger, Alan B, 1993. "How Computers Have Changed the Wage Structure: Evidence from Microdata, 1984-1989," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(1), pages 33-60, February.
  4. Iain Cockburn & Zvi Griliches, 1987. "Industry Effects and Appropriability Measures in the Stock Markets Valuation of R&D and Patents," NBER Working Papers 2465, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Bound, John & Johnson, George, 1992. "Changes in the Structure of Wages in the 1980's: An Evaluation of Alternative Explanations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 371-92, June.
  6. David Card & Alan Krueger, 1990. "School Quality and Black/White Relative Earnings: A Direct Assessment," Working Papers 652, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Francine D. Blau & Andrea H. Beller, 1991. "Black-White Earnings Over the 1970s and 1980s: Gender Differences in Trends," NBER Working Papers 3736, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Deaton, Angus, 1985. "Panel data from time series of cross-sections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1-2), pages 109-126.
  9. Lee Lillard & James P. Smith & Finis Welch, 2004. "What Do We Really Know About Wages: The Importance of Nonreporting and Census Imputation," Labor and Demography 0404005, EconWPA.
  10. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  11. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 1992. "The Gender Earnings Gap: Some International Evidence," NBER Working Papers 4224, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Murphy, Kevin M & Welch, Finis, 1992. "The Structure of Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 285-326, February.
  13. Card, David & Lemieux, Thomas, 1994. "Changing Wage Structure and Black-White Wage Differentials," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 29-33, May.
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