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Trends in Direct Measures of Job Skill Requirements

  • Michael J. Handel

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)

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    It is commonly assumed that jobs in the United States require ever greater levels of skill and, more strongly, that this trend is accelerating as a result of the diffusion of information technology. This has led to substantial concern over the possibility of a growing mismatch between the skills workers possess and the skills employers demand, reflected in debates over the need for education reform and the causes of the growth in earnings inequality. However, efforts to measure trends have been hampered by the lack of direct measures of job skill requirements. This paper uses previously unexamined measures from the Quality of Employment Surveys and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to examine trends in job education and training requirements and provide a validation tool for skill measures in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, whose quality has long been subject to question. Results indicate that job skill requirements have increased steadily over the 1970s-1990s but that there has been no acceleration in recent years that might explain the growth in earnings inequality. There is also no dramatic change in the number of workers who are undereducated. These results reinforce the conclusions of earlier work that reports of a growing skills mismatch are likely overdrawn.

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    File URL: http://econwpa.repec.org/eps/mac/papers/0004/0004048.pdf
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    Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Macroeconomics with number 0004048.

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    Length: 34 pages
    Date of creation: 24 Oct 2000
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:0004048
    Note: Type of Document - Adobe Acrobat PDF; prepared on IBM PC; to print on PostScript; pages: 34; figures: included
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://econwpa.repec.org

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    1. 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.
    2. Michael Handel, 2000. "Is There a Skills Crisis? Trends in Job Skill Requirements, Technology, and Wage Inequality in the United States," Macroeconomics 0004041, EconWPA.
    3. Teixeira, Ruy, 1998. "Rural and Urban Manufacturing Workers: Similar Problems, Similar Challenges: Results of the ERS Rural Manufacturing Survey," Agricultural Information Bulletins 33621, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    4. Michael J. Handel, 2000. "Is There a Skills Crisis? Trends in Job Skill Requirements, Technology, and Wage Inequality in the United States," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_295, Levy Economics Institute.
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