The Effects of Technological Change on Earnings and Income Inequality inthe United States

McKinley L. Blackburn, David E. Bloom

NBER Working Paper No. 2337 (Also Reprint No. r1187)
Issued in August 1987
NBER Program(s):The Labor Studies Program

This paper explores the relationship between technological change and inequality in the U.S. since the late 1960's. The analysis focuses primarily on studying patterns and trends in the dispersion of various distributions of earnings and income during this recent period of rapid technological progress. We review relevant literature and perform several empirical analyses using microdata from the March Current Population Surveys from 1968 to 1986. Our main findings are that there is little empirical evidence that earnings inequality, measured across individual workers, has increased since the late 1960's, and even less evidence to support the hypothesis that any changes that have occurred have resulted from the effect of technological change on the demand for labor. However, we do find evidence of an increase since the late 1960's in the inequality of total family income, measured across families. Moreover, much of the increase appears to be due to changes in family composition and labor supply behavior, suggesting that the main effects of recent technological change on inequality have been supply-side in nature.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2337

Published: "Earnings and Income Inequality in the United States" From Population and Development Review, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 575-609, (December 1987).

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