NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Wages, Skills, and Technology in the United States and Canada

Kevin M. Murphy, W. Craig Riddell, Paul M. Romer

NBER Working Paper No. 6638
Issued in July 1998
NBER Program(s):   LS

Wages for more- and less-educated workers have followed strikingly different paths in the U.S. and Canada. During the 1980's and 1990's, the ratio of earnings of university graduates to high school graduates increased sharply in the U.S. but fell slightly in Canada. Katz and Murphy (1992) found that for the U.S. a simple supply-demand model fit the pattern of variation in the premium over time. We find that the same model and parameter estimates explain the variation between the U.S. and Canada. In both instances, the relative demand for more-educated labor shifts out at the same, consistent rate. Both over time and between countries, the variation in rate of growth of relative wages can be explained by variation in the relative supply of more-educated workers. Many economists suspect that technological change is causing the steady increases in the relative demand for more-educated labor. If so, these data provide independent evidence on the spatial and temporal variation in the pattern of technological change. Whatever is causing this increased demand for skill, the evidence from Canada suggest that increases in educational attainment and skills can reduce the rate at which relative wages diverge.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6638

Published: General Purpose Technologies and Economic Growth, Helpman, Elhanen, ed., Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998.

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