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

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  • Timothy Dunne
  • John Haltiwanger
  • Lucia Foster

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7465
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kremer, M & Maskin, E, 1996. "Wage Inequality and Segregation by Skill," Working papers 96-23, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    2. Daron Acemoglu, 1999. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1259-1278, December.
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    4. 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.
    5. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 339-376.
    6. Douglas W Dwyer, 1995. "Whittling Away At Productivity Dispersion," Working Papers 95-5, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    7. 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.
    8. Martin Neil Baily & Eric J. Bartelsman & John Haltiwanger, 2001. "Labor Productivity: Structural Change And Cyclical Dynamics," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(3), pages 420-433, August.
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    12. Timothy Dunne & Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & Kenneth Troske, 2000. "Wage and Productivity Dispersion in U.S. Manufacturing: The Role of Computer Investment," Working Papers 00-01, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights

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