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Productivity Measurement and the Impact of Trade and Technology on Wages: Estimates for the U.S., 1972-1990

  • Robert C. Feenstra
  • Gordon H. Hanson

We develop an empirical framework to assess the importance of trade and technical change on the wages of production and nonproduction workers. Trade is measured by the foreign outsourcing of intermediate inputs, while technical change is measured by the shift towards high-technology capital such as computers. In our benchmark specification, we find that both foreign outsourcing and expenditures on high-technology equipment can explain a substantial amount of the increase in the wages of nonproduction (high-skilled) relative to production (low-skilled) workers that occurred during the 1980s. Surprisingly, it is expenditures on high-technology capital other than computers that are most important. These results are very sensitive, however, to our benchmark assumption that industry prices are independent of productivity. When we allow for the endogeneity of industry prices, then expenditures on computers becomes the most important cause of the increased wage inequality, and have a 50% greater impact than does foreign outsourcing.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w6052.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6052.

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Date of creation: Jun 1997
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Publication status: published as (Published as "The Impact of Outsourcing and High-Technology Capital on Wages: Estimates for the United States, 1979-1990") Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 114 (1999): 907-940.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6052
Note: ITI PR
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  1. Berndt, Ernst R. & Morrison, Catherine J. & Rosenblum, Larry S., 1992. "High-tech capital formation and labor composition in U.S. manufacturing industries : an exploratory analysis," Working papers 3414-92., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  2. R. E. Baldwin & G. G. Cain, . "Shifts in U.S. Relative Wages: The Role of Trade, Technology, and Factor Endowments," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1132-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  3. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," NBER Working Papers 5956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Baldwin, Robert E & Hilton, R Spence, 1984. "A Technique for Indicating Comparative Costs and Predicting Changes in Trade Ratios," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(1), pages 105-10, February.
  5. Berndt, Ernst R. & Morrison, Catherine J., 1995. "High-tech capital formation and economic performance in U.S. manufacturing industries An exploratory analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 9-43, January.
  6. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Griliches, Zvi, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-97, May.
  7. Martin Neil Baily & Robert J. Gordon, 1988. "The Productivity Slowdown, Measurement Issues, and the Explosion of Computer Power," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(2), pages 347-432.
  8. Eric J. Bartelsman & Wayne Gray, 1996. "The NBER Manufacturing Productivity Database," NBER Technical Working Papers 0205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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