NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Changes in U.S. Wages 1976-2000: Ongoing Skill Bias or Major Technological Change?

Paul Beaudry, David A. Green

NBER Working Paper No. 8787
Issued in February 2002
NBER Program(s):   LS   PR

This paper examines the determinants of changes in the US wage structure over the period 1976-2000, with the objective of evaluating whether these changes are best described as the result of ongoing skill-biased technological change, or alternatively, as the outcome of an adjustment process associated with a major discrete change in technological opportunities. The main empirical observation we uncover is that change in both the level of wages and the returns to skill over this period appear to be primarily driven by changes in the ratio of human capital (as measured by effective units of skilled workers) to physical capital. Although at first pass this pattern may appear difficult to interpret, we show that it conforms extremely well to a simple model of technological adoption following a major change in technological opportunities. In contrast, we do not find much empirical support for the view that ongoing (factor-augmenting) skill-biased technological progress has been an important driving force over this period, nor do we find support for the view that physical capital accumulation has contributed to the increased differential between more and less educated workers (in fact, we find the opposite).

download in pdf format
   (1019 K)

email paper

This paper is available as PDF (1019 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Published: Beaudry, Paul and David A. Green. "Changes In U.S. Wages, 1876-2000: Ongoing Skill Bias Or Major Technological Change?," Journal of Labor Economics, 2005, v23(3,Jul), 609-648.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Beaudry and Green w6853 What is Driving US and Canadian Wages: Exogenous Technical Change or Endogenous Choice of Technique?
Card and DiNardo w8769 Skill Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles
Beaudry, Doms, and Lewis w12521 Endogenous Skill Bias in Technology Adoption: City-Level Evidence from the IT Revolution
Acemoglu w7800 Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us