Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Wages and Human Capital in the U.S. Financial Industry: 1909-2006

Fascinating paper by Thomas Philippon (New York University) and Ariell Reshef
(University of Virginia) on wages, skills and technology in the U.S. financial sector over the last 100 years.


We use detailed information about wages, education and occupations to shed light on
the evolution of the U.S. financial sector over the past century. We uncover a set of
new, interrelated stylized facts: financial jobs were relatively skill intensive, complex, and highly paid until the 1930s and after the 1980s, but not in the interim period. We investigate the determinants of this evolution and find that financial deregulation and corporate activities linked to IPOs and credit risk increase the demand for skills in financial jobs. Computers and information technology play a more limited role. Our analysis also shows that wages in finance were excessively high around 1930 and from the mid 1990s until 2006. For the recent period we estimate that rents accounted for 30% to 50% of the wage differential between the financial sector and the rest of the private sector.

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