Department of Economics

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Seminar - Upcoming

2013 Asia Summer Institute in Behavioral Economics
Asian Meeting of the Econometric Society 2013
Past Events
Department Seminar


Horizontal and Vertical Polarization: Task-Specific Technological Change in a Multi-Sector Economy


Yongseok Shin
Washington University in St. Louisy
Date: Mar 28, Tue

Time: 4:30 - 6 pm

Venue: Lim Tay Boh Seminar Room (AS2 03-12)
National University of Singapore
1 Arts Link, Singapore 117570

Chair: Jo In Hwan


We analyze the effect of technological change on inequality using a novel framework that integrates an economy's skill distribution with its occupational and industrial structure. Individuals become a manager or a worker based on their managerial vs. worker skills, and workers further sort into a continuum of tasks (occupations) ranked by skill content. Our theory dictates that faster technological progress for middle-skill tasks raises the employment shares and relative wages of lower- and higher-skill occupations (horizontal polarization), but also raises those of managers over workers as a whole (vertical polarization). Both dimensions of polarization are faster within sectors that depend more on middle-skill tasks and less on managers. This endogenously leads to faster TFP growth among such sectors, whose employment and value-added shares shrink if sectoral goods are complementarity to each other (structural change). In the limiting growth path, middle-skill occupations vanish but all sectors coexist. We present several novel facts that support our model, followed by a quantitative analysis that shows that task-specific technological progress---which was fastest for occupations embodying routine-manual tasks but not interpersonal skills---is important for understanding changes in the sectoral, occupational, and organizational structure of the U.S. economy since 1980. In contrast, skill-biased and/or sector-specific technological change played only a minor role.