<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Technology and wage inequality: the four-step process

Economic events can change the equilibrium salary (or wage) and quantity of labor. Consider how the wave of new information technologies, like computer and telecommunications networks, has affected low-skill and high-skill workers in the U.S. economy. From the perspective of employers who demand labor, these new technologies are often a substitute for low-skill laborers like file clerks who used to keep file cabinets full of paper records of transactions. However, the same new technologies are a complement to high-skill workers like managers, who benefit from the technological advances by being able to monitor more information, communicate more easily, and juggle a wider array of responsibilities. So, how will the new technologies affect the wages of high-skill and low-skill workers? For this question, the four-step process of analyzing how shifts in supply or demand affect a market (introduced in Demand and Supply ) works in this way:

Step 1. What did the markets for low-skill labor and high-skill labor look like before the arrival of the new technologies? In [link] (a) and [link] (b), S 0 is the original supply curve for labor and D 0 is the original demand curve for labor in each market. In each graph, the original point of equilibrium, E 0 , occurs at the price W 0 and the quantity Q 0 .

Technology and wages: applying demand and supply

The two graphs show how new technology influences supply and demand. The graph on the left represents low-skill labor, and the graph on the right represents high-skill labor.
(a) The demand for low-skill labor shifts to the left when technology can do the job previously done by these workers. (b) New technologies can also increase the demand for high-skill labor in fields such as information technology and network administration.

Step 2. Does the new technology affect the supply of labor from households or the demand for labor from firms? The technology change described here affects demand for labor by firms that hire workers.

Step 3. Will the new technology increase or decrease demand? Based on the description earlier, as the substitute for low-skill labor becomes available, demand for low-skill labor will shift to the left, from D 0 to D 1 . As the technology complement for high-skill labor becomes cheaper, demand for high-skill labor will shift to the right, from D 0 to D 1 .

Step 4. The new equilibrium for low-skill labor, shown as point E 1 with price W 1 and quantity Q 1 , has a lower wage and quantity hired than the original equilibrium, E 0 . The new equilibrium for high-skill labor, shown as point E 1 with price W 1 and quantity Q 1 , has a higher wage and quantity hired than the original equilibrium (E 0 ).

So, the demand and supply model predicts that the new computer and communications technologies will raise the pay of high-skill workers but reduce the pay of low-skill workers. Indeed, from the 1970s to the mid-2000s, the wage gap widened between high-skill and low-skill labor. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1980, for example, a college graduate earned about 30% more than a high school graduate with comparable job experience, but by 2012, a college graduate earned about 60% more than an otherwise comparable high school graduate. Many economists believe that the trend toward greater wage inequality across the U.S. economy was primarily caused by the new technologies.

Questions & Answers

what is equilibrium
Daniel Reply
it is intersect point of economics line in graph, but everytime not graph
Ahmet
it is the intersection point of supply and demand curves
tesfie
GDP is domestic gross product. refer my site amanchabukswar.wordpress.com
Aman Reply
Hi everyone
AWOYEMI
hello lovely where am I?
Becky
Good morning
AWOYEMI
morning
Daniel
hi dear bro
tesfie
why does a firm continue operating at a breakeven point
Prince Reply
to retain its customers for later coming profits.
tesfie
this is because the firm's revenu is covering the variable cost so the firm should continuos business
Florencia
and zero profit is a normal profit which covers entrepreneur's profit along with recovering wages, interest and rent.
Farooq
what economic trend can we expect after lifting of 10 year long sanctions in an national economy?
tesfie Reply
difference between change in demand and change in quantity demanded
Maurice Reply
how
kumar
how to change
kumar
For a demand with repect to price. change in demand refers to the shifting of demand curve, where as change in quantity demanded means movement along the given demand curve.
Farooq
According to lional Robbins how did he explain economics
Raphael Reply
He defined economics as a science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scares which has alternative uses.
Emmanuel
What is economics
Nasiru Reply
why are some countries producing inside the ppf
Claire Reply
prove or disprove that balance of trade of trade deficit is a cause of an abnormal demand curve?
Chioma Reply
what's the fixed cost at output zero
Saidou Reply
fixed cost stay the same regardless of the level of output
Luka
example; electricity bill is fixed cost....but when the machinery plant is not active and perhaps so offices are locked up due to unforseen circumstances..... definitely the electric nose dive.... that is a reduction in fixed right? am just saying hope am making a point Luke?
klevic
what are the differences between change in demand and change in quantity demand
Sulaiman Reply
I think change in demand has to do with change from one product to another product....while change in quantity demand has to do with change in terms of units but same product....maybe due price change most especially, seasonal reasons too.
klevic
change in demand has to do with price of that commodity why change in quantity demand has to do with shift an has to do with other factor other than price
FIDELIS
what is consumers behaviour
Marfo Reply
i think it means the reaction expected of consumers in respect of changes in economic activities... most especially changes made by producers~wholesalers~retailers
klevic
importance of income
Emmanuel Reply
Tfor settlement of debt. For purchases. For payment of bills. For daily transactions. For social & recreational enjoyment. For business purposes etc
Oyetunde
thanks
Emmanuel
For investment purposes For security purposes For purpose of forecasting & strategizing.
Oyetunde
what is the real definition of economics
jegede Reply
Economics is the study of the use and allocation of (scarce) resources
demsurf
Jegede, what is the "non" real definition of economics then?
Ernest
Economics is a study of how human use limited resources to fulfil their unlimited want
Musa
the study of how a society use scarce factors of production efficiently so as meet aggregate social demand
Marc
what is oligopoly?
Sailo
Oligopoly can be defines as a market where by there is only tmo or more sellers of a commodity
Paamat
Sory not tmo but two
Paamat
incidence of production there is a choice do you agree? justify
Oduro Reply
What is incidence of production? do u mean incidence of tax?
Aryeetey

Get the best Principles of economics course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Principles of economics' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask