Snakes or Ladders? Skill Upgrading and Occupational Mobility in the US and the UK During the 1990s

41 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2007

See all articles by Richard Upward

Richard Upward

University of Nottingham - School of Economics

Peter W Wright

University of Sheffield - Department of Economics

Date Written: November 2007

Abstract

It is frequently argued that the process of skill upgrading has both worsened the employment prospects and decreased the relative wages of unskilled workers. However, workers are not immutably either low skill or high skill, and skill upgrading may offer the opportunity for workers to move up the 'skill ladder'. In this paper we examine the balance of these two effects. We use comparable individual-level panel data from the US and the UK to relate the probability of individual occupational movement to the extent of skill upgrading at the industry level. We find that whilst skill upgrading does indeed have a positive impact on the probability of moving up the job ladder, this is insufficient to outweigh the increased probability of unemployment. We also find that workers moving down or off the ladder suffer large wage penalties.

Keywords: Skill upgrading, occupational mobility, promotions and demotions

JEL Classification: J24, J62

Suggested Citation

Upward, Richard and Wright, Peter W, Snakes or Ladders? Skill Upgrading and Occupational Mobility in the US and the UK During the 1990s (November 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1032910 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1032910

Richard Upward (Contact Author)

University of Nottingham - School of Economics ( email )

University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD
United Kingdom
+44 115 951 5151 (Phone)
+44 115 951 4159 (Fax)

Peter W Wright

University of Sheffield - Department of Economics ( email )

9 Mappin Street
Sheffield, S1 4DT
UNITED KINGDOM

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