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Wage and Productivity Dispersion in U.S. Manufacturing: The Role of Computer Investment

  • Timothy Dunne
  • John Haltiwanger
  • Lucia Foster

By exploiting establishment-level data, this paper sheds new light on the source of the changes in the structure of production, wages, and employment that have occurred over the last several decades. Based on theoretical work by Caselli (1999) and Kremer and Maskin (1996), we focus on investigating the following two related hypotheses. The first hypothesis is that the channel through which skill biased technical change works through the economy is via changes in the dispersion in wages and productivity across establishments. The second is that the increased dispersion in wages and productivity across establishments is linked to differential rates of technological adoption across establishments. Our findings are supportive of these hypotheses. Specifically, we find that (1) the between plant component of wage dispersion is a growing part of total wage dispersion, (2) much of the between plant increase in dispersion is within industries, (3) the between plant measures of wage and productivity dispersion have increased substantially over the last few decades, and (4) a substantial fraction of the rising dispersion in wages and productivity is accounted for by increasing wage and productivity differentials across high and low computer investment per worker plants and high and low capital intensity plants.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7465.

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Date of creation: Jan 2000
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Publication status: published as Timothy Dunne & Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & Kenneth R. Troske, 2004. "Wage and Productivity Dispersion in United States Manufacturing: The Role of Computer Investment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 397-430, April.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7465
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  1. Dunne, Timothy & Haltiwanger, John & Troske, Kenneth R., 1997. "Technology and jobs: secular changes and cyclical dynamics," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 107-178, June.
  2. Baily, Martin Neil & Bartelsman, Eric J. & Haltiwanger, John, 1995. "Labor productivity: structural change and cyclical dynamics," Serie Research Memoranda 0050, VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics.
  3. David Autor & Lawrence Katz & Alan Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," Working Papers 756, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Catherine J. Morrison, 2000. "Assessing The Productivity Of Information Technology Equipment In U.S. Manufacturing Industries," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(3), pages 471-481, August.
  5. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  6. Greenwood, J. & Hercowitz, Z. & Krusell, P., 1995. "Long-Run Implications of Investment-Specific Technological Change," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9510, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  7. Acemoglu, Daron, 1996. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 1459, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Francesco Caselli, 1999. "Technological Revolutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 78-102, March.
  9. Eric J. Bartelsman & Wayne Gray, 1996. "The NBER Manufacturing Productivity Database," NBER Technical Working Papers 0205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Greenman, N. & Mairesse, J., 1996. "Computers and Productivity in France: Some Evidence," Monash Econometrics and Business Statistics Working Papers 15/96, Monash University, Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics.
  11. Kremer, M & Maskin, E, 1996. "Wage Inequality and Segregation by Skill," Working papers 96-23, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  12. Timothy Dunne & John Haltiwanger & Lucia Foster, 2000. "Wage and Productivity Dispersion in U.S. Manufacturing: The Role of Computer Investment," NBER Working Papers 7465, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. G. Steven Olley & Ariel Pakes, 1992. "The Dynamics of Productivity in the Telecommunications Equipment Industry," NBER Working Papers 3977, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Frank R. Lichtenberg, 1993. "The Output Contributions of Computer Equipment and Personnel: A Firm- Level Analysis," NBER Working Papers 4540, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Douglas W Dwyer, 1995. "Whittling Away At Productivity Dispersion," Working Papers 95-5, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  16. Steven J. DAVIS & John HALTIWANGER, 1996. "Employer Size and the Wage Structure in U.S. Manufacturing," Annales d'Economie et de Statistique, ENSAE, issue 41-42, pages 323-367.
  17. Michael Kremer & Eric Maskin, 1996. "Wage Inequality and Segregation," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1777, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  18. Bresnahan, Timothy F, 1999. "Computerisation and Wage Dispersion: An Analytical Reinterpretation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(456), pages F390-415, June.
  19. Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 1994. "Computers and Output Growth Revisited: How Big Is the Puzzle?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 273-334.
  20. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2002. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization, And The Demand For Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(1), pages 339-376, February.
  21. Kevin J. Stiroh, 2002. "Information Technology and the U.S. Productivity Revival: What Do the Industry Data Say?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1559-1576, December.
  22. Donald Siegel, 1997. "The Impact Of Computers On Manufacturing Productivity Growth: A Multiple-Indicators, Multiple-Causes Approach," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(1), pages 68-78, February.
  23. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & C.J. Krizan, 1998. "Aggregate Productivity Growth: Lessons from Microeconomic Evidence," NBER Working Papers 6803, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. 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.
  25. Doms, Mark & Dunne, Timothy & Troske, Kenneth R, 1997. "Workers, Wages, and Technology," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 253-90, February.
  26. Erik Brynjolfsson & Shinkyu Yang, 1997. "Information Technology and Productivity: A Review of the Literature," Working Paper Series 202, MIT Center for Coordination Science.
  27. Goldin, Claudia & Margo, Robert A, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34, February.
  28. Berndt, Ernst R. & Morrison, Catherine J., 1992. "High-tech capital formation and economic performance in U.S. manufacturing industries : an exploratory analysis," Working papers 3419-92., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  29. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1993. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing Industries: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 4255, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 7800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  31. Brynjolfsson, Erik & Hitt, Lorin M., 2004. "Computing Productivity: Firm-Level Evidence," Working papers 4210-01, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
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