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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

'Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality'

Lots of discussion recently about whether technological change is the primary source of wage inequality in recent decades (as opposed to policy and institutions). According to this, there are many "problems and puzzles for the skill biased technical change story": 

Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles, by Owen Sidar: Dylan Matthews has a nice post on the inequality & skill biased technical change debate between David Autor, who is one of my favorite labor economists, and some folks at EPI.

I wanted to highlight this paper by David Card and John DiNardo that goes through some problems and puzzles for the skill biased technical change story. Here’s how they conclude:

Our main conclusion is that, contrary to the impression conveyed by most of the recent literature, the SBTC hypothesis falls short as a unicausal explanation for the evolution of the U.S. wage structure in the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, we find puzzles and problems for the theory in nearly every dimension of the wage structure. This is not to say that we believe technology was fixed over the past 30 years or that recent technological changes have had no effect on the structure of wages. There were many technological innovations in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and it seems likely that these changes had some effect on relative wages. Rather, we argue that the SBTC hypothesis by itself is not particularly helpful in organizing or understanding the shifts in the structure of wages that have occurred in the U.S. labor market. Based on our reading of the evidence, we believe it is time to reevaluate the case that SBTC offers a satisfactory explanation for the rise in U.S. wage inequality in the last quarter of the twentieth century. 

I think that skill-biased technical change is part of the explanation for rising inequality, but it's far from the entire story.

    Posted by on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 09:24 AM in Economics, Income Distribution, Productivity, Technology, Unemployment | Permalink  Comments (43)



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