The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?
NBER Working Paper No. 5606
Are the large measured wage differentials associated with on-the-job computer use productivity gains or the result of unobserved heterogeneity? We examine this issue with three large cross-sectional surveys from Germany. First, we confirm that the estimated wage differentials associated with computer use in Germany are very similar to the U.S. differential. Second, using the same techniques we also measure large differentials for on-the-job use of calculators, telephones, pens or pencils, or for those who work while sitting down. Along with our reanalysis of the U.S. data these findings cast some doubt on the interpretation of the computer-use wage differential as reflecting productivity effects arising from the introduction of computers in the workplace.
Published: Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 112 (February 1997): 291-303.