Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 205–233 | Cite as

Cross-country variation in educational attainment: structural change or within-industry skill upgrading?

  • Lutz Hendricks


Educational attainment varies greatly across countries and within countries over time. This paper asks whether the variation in education is primarily due to industry composition or to within-industry skill intensities. The main finding is that within-industry variation accounts for at least two-thirds of the cross-country and the time-series variation in educational attainment. The within-industry education gaps are broadly consistent with a model of industry neutral cross-country differences in skilled labor productivity. These results suggest that theories of educational development should focus on skill upgrading within industries rather than structural change.


Education Skill bias Industry specialization 

JEL Classification

I2 J24 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Acemoglu D. (2002) Directed technical change. Review of Economic Studies 69: 781–810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Acemoglu D. (2003) Patterns of skill premia. Review of Economic Studies 70: 199–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Autor D. H., Katz L. F., Krueger A. B. (1998) Computing inequality: Have computers changed the labor market?. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 113(4): 1169–1213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Banerjee A., Duflo E. (2005) Growth theory through the lens of development. In: Aghion P., Durlauf S. N. (eds) Handbook of economic growth. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 473–554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barro R. J., Lee J.-W. (2001) International data on educational attainment: Updates and implications. Oxford Economic Papers 53(3): 541–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berman E., Bound J., Griliches Z. (1994) Changes in the demand for skilled labor within U.S. manufacturing: Evidence from the annual survey of manufacturers. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 109(2): 367–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berman E., Bound J., Machin S. (1998) Implications of skill-biased technological change: International evidence. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 113(4): 1245–1279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berman E., Machin S. (2000a) Skill-biased technology transfer around the world. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 16(3): 12–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berman E., Machin S. (2000) Skill-biased technology transfer: Evidence of factor biased technological change in developing countries. Boston University, MimeoGoogle Scholar
  10. Bils M., Klenow P. J. (2000) Does schooling cause growth?. The American Economic Review 90(5): 1160–1183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Caselli F., Coleman W. J. (2001) The U.S. structural transformation and regional convergence: A reinterpretation. The Journal of Political Economy 109(3): 584–616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Caselli F., Coleman W. J. (2006) The world technology frontier. American Economic Review 96(3): 499–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cordoba J.C., Ripoll M. (2009) Schooling and development: The role of credit limits, public education, fertility and mortality. Iowa State University, MimeoGoogle Scholar
  14. Desjonqueres T., Machin S., van Reenen J. (1999) Another nail in the coffin? Or can the trade based explanation of changing skill structures be resurrected?. The Scandinavian Journal of Economics 101(4): 533–554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Doms M., Lewis E. (2006) Labor supply and computer adoption. Mimeo, Federal Reserve Bank of San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  16. Erosa A., Koreshkova T., Restuccia D. (2007) How important is human capital? A quantitative theory of world income distribution. University of Toronto, MimeoGoogle Scholar
  17. Galor O. (2000) Ability biased technological transition, wage inequality, and economic growth. Quarterly Journal of Economics 115: 469–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Galor O. (2005) From stagnation to growth: Unified growth theory. In: Aghion P., Durlauf S. N. (eds) Handbook of economic growth. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 171–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Galor O., Weil D. N. (2000) Population, technology, and growth: From Malthusian stagnation to the demographic transition and beyond. The American Economic Review 90(4): 806–828CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goldin C. (1998) America’s graduation from high school: The evolution and spread of secondary schooling in the twentieth century. The Journal of Economic History 58(2): 345–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goldin C. (2001) The human-capital century and American leadership: Virtues of the past. The Journal of Economic History 61(2): 263–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Goldin C., Katz L. F. (2008) The race between education and technology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  23. Gollin D., Parente S., Rogerson R. (2002) The role of agriculture in development. The American Economic Review 92(2): 160–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gollin D., Parente S. L., Rogerson R. (2007) The food problem and the evolution of international income levels. Journal of Monetary Economics 54: 1230–1255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hall R. E., Jones C. I. (1999) Why do some countries produce so much more output per worker than others?. Quarterly Journal of Economics 114: 83–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hall, P. K., McCaa, R., Thorvaldsen, G. (eds) (2000) Handbook of international historical microdata for population research. The Minnesota Population Center, Minneapolis, MNGoogle Scholar
  27. Hansen G. D., Prescott E. C. (2002) Malthus to Solow. American Economic Review 92(4): 1205–1217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harris J. R., Todaro M. P. (1970) Migration, unemployment and development: A two-sector analysis. The American Economic Review 60(1): 126–142Google Scholar
  29. Hendricks L. (2002) How important is human capital for development? Evidence from immigrant earnings. The American Economic Review 92(1): 198–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hendricks L. (2008) Why does education differ across countries?. Iowa State University, MimeoGoogle Scholar
  31. Hendricks L. (2010) Validation of IPUMS international industry and education data. University of North Carolina, MimeoGoogle Scholar
  32. Hendricks, L. (2011). The skill composition of U.S. cities. International Economic Review (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  33. Kaboski J.P. (2006) Endogenous Mincerian returns: Explaining cross-country variation in the returns to schooling. Ohio State University, MimeoGoogle Scholar
  34. Klenow P. J., Rodriguez-Clare A. (1997) The neoclassical revival in growth economics: Has it gone too far?. NBER Macroeconomics Annual 12: 73–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lewis W. A. (1954) Economic development with unlimited supplies of labor. Manchester School of Economics and Social Studies 22: 139–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lucas R. E. (2004) Life earnings and rural-urban migration. Journal of Political Economy 112(1, part 2): S29–S59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Machin S., Van Reenen J. (1998) Technology and changes in skill structure: Evidence from seven OECD countries. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 113(4): 1215–1244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Manuelli R., Seshadri A. (2007) Human capital and the wealth of nations. University of Wisconsin, MimeoGoogle Scholar
  39. Minnesota Population Center. (2009). Integrated public use microdata series—international: Version 5.0. Machine-readable database.Google Scholar
  40. Restuccia D., Vandenbroucke G. (2008) The evolution of education: A macroeconomic analysis. University of Toronto, MimeoGoogle Scholar
  41. Restuccia D., Yang D. T., Zhu X. (2007) Agriculture and aggregate productivity: A quantitative cross-country analysis. Journal of Monetary Economics 55(2): 234–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ruggles S., King M. L., Levison D., McCaa R., Sobek M. (2003) IPUMS-international. Historical Methods 36(2): 60–65Google Scholar
  43. Schoellman T. (2006) The causes and consequences of cross-country differences in school attainment. Clemson University, MimeoGoogle Scholar
  44. Trefler D. (1993) International factor price differences: Leontief was right!. Journal of Political Economy 101(6): 961–987CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.CESifoMunichGermany
  3. 3.CFSFrankfurtGermany

Personalised recommendations