Abstract

A basic relationship of the standard general equilibrium trade model relating product-price changes to factor-price changes is used—together with other economic relationships based on this model—to investigate empirically the importance of changes in trade, technology, and factor endowments in accounting for the shifts in relative wages of less-educated workers compared to more-educated workers from 1967 to 1996. In the early part of the period when wage inequality decreased, the dominant explanatory factor seems to have been a relative increase in the supply of highly educated labor. However, since the late 1970s, none of the three economic forces considered can alone account for the observed changes in relative wages, prices, outputs, net exports, and factor-use ratios. In particular, both education-biased technical progress that was greater in industries that intensively used more-educated labor and increased import competition in industries that intensively used less-educated labor seem to have played important roles in bringing about the increase in wage inequality during the 1980s and 1990s.

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