The Diffusion of Computers and the Distribution of Wages

56 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2004

See all articles by Lex Borghans

Lex Borghans

Maastricht University - Department of Economics; University of Maastricht - Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Bas ter Weel

University of Amsterdam - SEO Economic Research; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Date Written: April 2004

Abstract

When workers adopt technology at the point where the costs equal the increased productivity, output per worker increases immediately, while the productivity benefits increase only gradually if the costs continue to fall. As a result, workers in computer-adopting labor market groups experience an immediate fall in wages due to increased supply. On the other hand, adopting workers experience wage increases with some delay. This model explains why increased computer use does not immediately lead to higher wage inequality. More specifically, the results of the model are shown to be consistent with the question why within-group wage inequality among skilled workers as a result of computer technology adoption in the United States increased in the 1970s, while between-group wage inequality and within-group wage inequality among the unskilled did not start to increase until the 1980s. The model also suggests that the slow diffusion of computer technology in Germany along with the absence of major changes in the wage structure in the 1980s is consistent with the more compressed German wage structure. Finally, the theoretical predictions seem to be of the right magnitude to explain the empirical quantities observed in the data.

Keywords: wage level and structure, diffusion of computer

JEL Classification: J31, O15, O33

Suggested Citation

Borghans, Lex and ter Weel, Bas, The Diffusion of Computers and the Distribution of Wages (April 2004). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=533684

Lex Borghans (Contact Author)

Maastricht University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, 6200 MD
Netherlands

University of Maastricht - Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, MD6200
Netherlands

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Bas Ter Weel

University of Amsterdam - SEO Economic Research ( email )

Roetersstraat 29
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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