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The Collapse of Low-Skill Wages

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  • David R. Howell

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)

Abstract

This paper assesses the empirical support for the skill mismatch story, outlines an institutionalist alternative, and contrasts their policy implications. The first part of the paper considers the empirical support for the underlying premise of the skill mismatch explanation for the earnings collapse: Has there, in fact, been a strong shift in demand away from low-skill workers? Does the timing of employment shifts by skill group across industries match trends in computerization? Have there been observable declines in low-wage employment shares and substantial increases in low-skill joblessness, as the neoclassical model would predict if there is skill mismatch? I find that the answer to each of these questions is no and conclude that it is necessary to look beyond supply and demand shifts to explain the wage collapse. The second part of the paper represents a tentative first attempt to do this. And as befits a working paper, the paper concludes with a discussion of the policy implications of the two explanations.

Suggested Citation

  • David R. Howell, 1998. "The Collapse of Low-Skill Wages," Macroeconomics 9805027, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:9805027
    Note: Type of Document - Acrobat PDF; prepared on IBM PC ; to print on PostScript; pages: 52; figures: included
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    File URL: http://econwpa.repec.org/eps/mac/papers/9805/9805027.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. DiNardo, John & Fortin, Nicole M & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(5), pages 1001-1044, September.
    2. Allen, Steven G, 2001. "Technology and the Wage Structure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 440-483, April.
    3. Rachel M. Friedberg & Jennifer Hunt, 1995. "The Impact of Immigrants on Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 23-44, Spring.
    4. Steve J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1991. "Wage Dispersion Between and Within U.S. Manufacturing Plants, 1963-1986," NBER Working Papers 3722, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Chinhui Juhn, 1992. "Decline of Male Labor Market Participation: The Role of Declining Market Opportunities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 79-121.
    6. McKinley L. Blackburn & David E. Bloom & Richard B. Freeman, 1989. "The Declining Economic Position of Less-Skilled American Males," NBER Working Papers 3186, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Manso, Enrique Palazuelos, 2006. "The influence of earnings on income distribution in the United States," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 710-726, August.

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    JEL classification:

    • E - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics

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