Coping with technological change: The role of ability in making inequality so persistent

Yona Rubinstein*, Daniel Tsiddon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


This study provides an explanation to the evolution of wage inequality over the last 30 years and supports this explanation with evidence. A faster rate of technological progress introduces new unknown elements at the workplace. The need to cope with the unknown accentuates the role of ability and thus increases wage inequality within and between education groups. Inasmuch as education is an irreversible investment project the rise in within group inequality BOOSTS UP the rise of between group inequality. Guided by this theory we turn to the PSID for evidence. Using parents' education to approximate child's ability we show the following set of results: (a) Controlling for education of the child, parents' education contributed much more in the 1980s to his wage growth than in the 1970s. (b) The correlation between the parents' and the child's education increases from the 1970s to the 1980s. (c) The return to college education for an individual with no ability rents did not change - it remains steady at the 23 percent. income. It is parents' education and not parents' income that is more relevant for son's economic outcomes in the 1980s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-346
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of Economic Growth
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004


  • Ability
  • Human capital
  • Income distribution
  • Intergenerational mobility
  • Technological progress


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