Essays on skill biased technological change and human capital
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This dissertation studies determinants of the U.S. labor market structure and human capital development, with a focus on technological change. A key feature of the U.S. labor market since 1980 is the substantial growth of the employment in high skill occupations and there is a substantial literature attributing this change to technological change. However, since 1999, the employment growth of high skill occupations has decelerated markedly despite continued rapid growth in technology. The first essay documents this novel trend and examines the role of technological change in explaining this phenomenon. It shows that technological advancements since the late 1990s, such as the onset of Internet, have expanded what computers can do and become substitutes for high skill occupations. This change can explain a substantial portion of the stagnancy in employment growth for high skill occupation in the 2000s. The second essay examines the role of computer adoption in explaining the differences in the change of gender wage gap between 1980 and 2000 across cities in the United States. It uses the city-level routine task intensity in 1980 to predict the subsequent increase in computer adoption and shows that cities with one percent greater increase in computer adoption experienced a 0.7 percent more decrease in the change of male-female wage ratio between 1980 and 2000. Computerization explains about 50 percent of the decline in the male-female wage gap between 1980 and 2000. The third essay studies the causal effect of maternal education on the gender gap in children’s non-cognitive skills. It shows that maternal education reduces boys’ disadvantage in non-cognitive behaviors relative to girls at age 7. To explain the mechanism of this effect, it provides suggestive evidence that better educated mothers spend more time going outings with boys while reading to girls at age 7, and going outings could be more closely related to non-cognitive development than reading.