NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Techies, Trade, and Skill-Biased Productivity

James Harrigan, Ariell Reshef, Farid Toubal

NBER Working Paper No. 25295
Issued in November 2018, Revised in January 2019
NBER Program(s):International Trade and Investment, Labor Studies, Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

We study the impact of firm level choices of ICT, R&D, exporting and importing on the evolution of productivity and its bias towards skilled occupations. We use a novel measure of the propensity of a firm to engage in technology investment and adoption: its employment of workers with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills and experience who we call “techies”. We develop a methodology for estimating firm level productivity that allows us to measure both Hicks-neutral and skill-augmenting technology differences, and apply this to administrative data on French firms in the entire private sector from 2009 to 2013. We find that techies and importing of intermediate inputs raise skill-biased productivity, while imports also raise Hicks-neutral productivity. We also find that higher firm-level skill biased productivity raises low-skill employment even as it raises the ratio of skilled to unskilled workers. This is because of the cost-reducing effect of higher productivity. The techie and trade effects are large, and can account for much of the aggregate increase in skilled employment from 2009 to 2013.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25295

 
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