People and Machines: A Look at the Evolving Relationship Between Capital and Skill In Manufacturing 1860-1930 Using Immigration Shocks
NBER Working Paper No. 21435
This paper estimates the elasticity of substitution between capital and skill using variation across U.S. counties in immigration-induced skill mix changes between 1860 and 1930. We find that capital began as a q-complement for skilled and unskilled workers, and then dramatically increased its relative complementary with skilled workers around 1890. Simulations of a parametric production function calibrated to our estimates imply the level of capital-skill complementarity after 1890 likely allowed the U.S. economy to absorb the large wave of less-skilled immigration with a modest decline in less-skilled relative wages. This would not have been possible under the older production technology.
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21435
Published: Jeanne Lafortune & Ethan Lewis & José Tessada, 2019. "People and Machines: A Look at the Evolving Relationship between Capital and Skill in Manufacturing, 1860–1930, Using Immigration Shocks," The Review of Economics and Statistics, vol 101(1), pages 30-43. citation courtesy of
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