- General Discussion
Frank Levy commented on some historical causes of the growth in wage inequality. He noted that the interaction of existing labor market institutions and rapid cost-of-living increases in the 1970s led to a bump in labor's share of income. The deregulation of the late 1970s and early 1980s pushed the labor share in the opposite direction by amplifying the impact of other market and technological changes.
Gary Burtless highlighted the puzzle that male educational attainment has been declining while returns to education have been rising. The amount of schooling accumulated by men between the time they are sixteen and twenty-four years old is about the same today as in 1979. If rising wage inequality is caused in part by rising earnings premiums for college and postcollege degrees, and if the popular media are aware of this point, why do men not read the newspaper and decide to acquire more education in order to raise their lifetime earnings? He noted that this puzzle is not so apparent among women. Robert Hall replied that women may perceive fewer good career opportunities without a college education than do men. Lawrence Katz noted that girls have always done better in school than boys, and that this difference is an increasing problem for men because high-salary jobs for people with little education are vanishing. He wondered whether the lack of educational attainment were due partly to low self-control and whether people might benefit from stricter compulsory schooling rules.
Robert Lawrence was interested in the finding that immigration has not been a very significant factor in the labor market. In particular, the lack of decline in the high school wage premium suggests that immigrants have not pushed down wages substantially for less educated native-born workers. Lawrence also questioned the connection between outsourcing [End Page 166] and technology. There is significant outsourcing of high-technology tasks, particularly to India, including answering phones at the lower end and writing software at the higher end.and [End Page 167]