Technical Change and the Wage Structure During the Second Industrial Revolution: Evidence from the Merchant Marine, 1865-1912

50 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2004 Last revised: 17 Jan 2015

See all articles by Aimee Chin

Aimee Chin

University of Houston - Department of Economics

Chinhui Juhn

University of Houston - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Peter Thompson

Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2004

Abstract

Using a large, individual-level wage data set, we examine the impact of a major technological innovation the steam engine on skill demand and the wage structure in the merchant shipping industry. We find that the technical change created a new demand for skilled workers, the engineers, while destroying demand for workers with skills relevant only to sail. It had a deskilling effect on production work able-bodied seamen (essentially, artisans) were replaced by unskilled engine room operatives. On the other hand, mates and able-bodied seamen employed on steam earned a premium relative to their counterparts on sail. A wholesale switch from sail to steam would increase the 90/10 wage ratio by 40%, with most of the rise in inequality coming from the creation of the engineer occupation.

Suggested Citation

Chin, Aimee Y. and Juhn, Chinhui and Thompson, Peter, Technical Change and the Wage Structure During the Second Industrial Revolution: Evidence from the Merchant Marine, 1865-1912 (September 2004). NBER Working Paper No. w10728, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=587942

Aimee Y. Chin (Contact Author)

University of Houston - Department of Economics ( email )

Houston, TX 77204-5882
United States

Chinhui Juhn

University of Houston - Department of Economics ( email )

Houston, TX 77204-5882
United States
713-743-3823 (Phone)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

Peter Thompson

Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business ( email )

800 West Peachtree St., NW
Atlanta, GA 30308-1149
United States

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