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Skill Biased Technological Change and Endogenous Benefits: The Dynamics of Unemployment and Wage Inequality

  • Weiss, Matthias
  • Garloff, Alfred

In this paper, we study the effect of skill-biased technological change on unemployment when benefits are linked to the evolution of average income and when this is not the case. In the former case, an increase in the productivity of skilled workers and hence their wage leads to an increase in average income and hence in benefits. The increased fallback income, in turn, makes unskilled workers ask for higher wages. As higher wages are not justified by respective productivity increases, unemployment rises. More generally, we show that skill-biased technological change leads to increasing unemployment of the unskilled when benefits are endogenous. The model provides a theoretical explanation for diverging developments in wage inequality and unemployment under different social benefits regimes: Analyzing the social legislation in 14 countries, we find that benefits are linked to the evolution of average income in Continental Europe but not in the U.S. and the UK. Given this institutional difference, our model predicts that skill-biased technological change leads to rising unemployment in Continental Europe and rising wage inequality in the U.S. and the UK.

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Paper provided by ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research in its series ZEW Discussion Papers with number 05-79.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:4562
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  1. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Machin, Stephen, 1997. "Implications of Skill-Biased Technological Change: International Evidence," Working Paper Series 486, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  2. Francesconi, Marco, et al, 2000. "Education and the Natural Rate of Unemployment," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(1), pages 204-23, January.
  3. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed The Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213, November.
  4. Olivier Blanchard, 2006. "European unemployment: the evolution of facts and ideas," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 21(45), pages 5-59, 01.
  5. Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 7800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-83, May.
  7. Robert E. Baldwin & Glen G. Cain, 1997. "Shifts in U.S. Relative Wages: The Role of Trade, Technology and Factor Endowments," NBER Working Papers 5934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Robert E. Baldwin & Glen G. Cain, 2000. "Shifts In Relative U.S. Wages: The Role Of Trade, Technology, And Factor Endowments," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 580-595, November.
  9. Nickell, Stephen & Bell, Brian, 1996. "Changes in the Distribution of Wages and Unemployment in OECD Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 302-08, May.
  10. Paul Beaudry & David Green, 2000. "The Changing Structure of Wages in the US and Germany: What Explains the Differences?," NBER Working Papers 7697, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Foster, James E, 1998. "Absolute versus Relative Poverty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 335-41, May.
  12. Stephen Nickell, 1997. "Unemployment and Labor Market Rigidities: Europe versus North America," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 55-74, Summer.
  13. Pierre Cahuc & André Zylberberg, 2004. "Labor Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026203316x, June.
  14. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," NBER Working Papers 8769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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