What is Driving US and Canadian Wages: Exogenous Technical Change or Endogenous Choice of Technique?

Paul Beaudry, David Green

NBER Working Paper No. 6853
Issued in December 1998
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

This paper proposes a new and unified explanation for the following trends observed over the last 25 years: (1) the increased returns to education, (2) the slow measured growth in TFP in an economy undergoing massive changes in its methods of production, and (3) the poor wage performance, relative to TFP growth, of both young high school and college educated workers. The explanation we propose downplays the role of exogenous skill-biased technological change and instead emphasizes how the endogenous choice of modes of organization, influenced by changes in factor supplies, can generate the above observations. For example, we argue that increased education attainment, through its effect of the choice production techniques, may have been the major cause for the increased differential between more and less educated workers over the last quarter of a century. The evidence we examine to test our hypothesis is based on US and Canadian data over the period 1971 - 95. We pay particular attention to explaining the difference between our results and those associated with the skill-biased technical change hypothesis.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6853

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