Are Computer Skills the New Basic Skills? The Returns to Computer, Writing and Math Skills in Britain

25 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2003

See all articles by Lex Borghans

Lex Borghans

Maastricht University - Department of Economics; University of Maastricht - Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Bas ter Weel

University of Amsterdam - SEO Economic Research; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Date Written: April 2003

Abstract

The large increase in computer use has raised the question whether people have to be taught computer skills before entering the labour market. Using data from the 1997 Skills Survey of the Employed British Workforce, we argue that neither the increase in computer use nor the fact that particularly higher skilled workers use a computer provides evidence that computer skills are valuable. We compare computer skills with writing and math skills and test whether wages vary with computer skills, given the specific use that is made of computers. The regression results show that while the ability to write documents and to carry out mathematical analyses yields significant labour-market returns, the ability to effectively use a computer has no substantial impact on wages. These estimates suggest that writing and math can be regarded as basic skills, but that the higher wages of computer users are unrelated to computer skills.

Keywords: Wage Differentials by Skill, Computer Use and Skill

JEL Classification: J30, J31

Suggested Citation

Borghans, Lex and ter Weel, Bas, Are Computer Skills the New Basic Skills? The Returns to Computer, Writing and Math Skills in Britain (April 2003). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=399380

Lex Borghans (Contact Author)

Maastricht University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, 6200 MD
Netherlands

University of Maastricht - Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, MD6200
Netherlands

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Bas Ter Weel

University of Amsterdam - SEO Economic Research ( email )

Roetersstraat 29
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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