Friday, January 18, 2013

Skills-biased technological change and inequality

There's a lot of talk about it right now after a panel on it at the economics meetings. I don't have deep thoughts on it for you now, but I have links:

Here's Jared Bernstein
Here's Peter Dorman

And here's a paper from two years ago by Harry Holzer I always like to show people about how there is something to it, but the strength of the findings are very sensitive to how you operationalize the problem.

That is basically my view too.

I'm having a bit of an arm wrestle over this with my NBER chapter co-author (yes that's still going on... but they need to be in by the end of the month. Normal publication delays plus a delay obtaining the data for the editor's chapter and of course we all will wait for him). My co-author is convinced we should pull out the section on SBTC and engineering earnings. I'm trying to convince him that just because it doesn't explain all of what's going on with inequality doesn't mean it not an important factor in engineering earnings - particularly during certain periods. Anyway, not a big deal - it's a sprawling chapter with a lot of stuff anway, but I'm gonna try to keep in as much of that as I can.


Speaking of sprawling... the Hayek paper is in finally. 13,000 words. Thanks for everyone who looked at chunks of it (I didn't subject anyone to the whole thing... just like the CIA, I compartmentalize my dirty work). Seriously, though - I hope it will be a valuable contribution to the literature. I think I have some pretty good things to say, particularly in how we should take the growing empirical literature.


  1. The Hayek paper sounds interesting. Any chance of posting the whole draft (unless that's forbidden by the publisher)?

    1. If it had first been a working paper looking for a home maybe, but I probably shouldn't at this point - but it should come out this year.

  2. Regarding the Hayek paper...glad to hear that it's been submitted. However, since you're submitting the Hayek paper to Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society, wouldn't that fact work against your article in being cited by other scholars? After all, your paper on Hayek is being submitted to a political science journal, not an economics journal...

    1. Lots of economists publish in Critical Review, particularly the sorts of economists that care about Hayek. Look at the board of advisors - it's full of economists. It's an interdisciplinary journal.

      Anyway, the point is its an excellent journal - I have no concerns about publishing there.

  3. Skill Biased Technological Change has always been a stupid idea. It is based on an incoherent neoclassical theory that was rejected by the neoclassical side of the Cambridge Capital Controversy. In other words, it was known to be nonsense when it was first put forward.

    And it does not work empirically. See James Galbraith's 1998 book, Created Unequal: The Crisis in American Pay. (A labor economist ought to strongly consider reading this book anyways.)


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