How Much Do Computers and the Internet Boost Wages?

The answer, according to a couple of Harvard economics’ professors, is not that much.

Though most folks attribute the growing gap in wages to a higher technological prowess among employees, Profs. Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz chalk it up to the America not educating citizens the way it used to, writes the Chronicle of Higher education.

Between 1915 and 1950, the national high-school-graduation rate rose from roughly 15 percent to roughly 60 percent, and college attend-ance also spiked.

Then, around 1970, something changed. High-school graduation rates flattened near 70 percent, where they remain. College attendance continued to grow, but the college-completion rate — that is, the percentage of a population cohort that earns a bachelor’s degree — stagnated for more than a decade. (In the 1990s, women’s college-completion rate began to grow strongly again, but the rate for men is still roughly what it was 40 years ago.)

According to the researchers, the problem lies in that it’s harder for students to finish college, because of tuition hikes and the need to get part time jobs. And weak education system isn’t keeping kids through high school or preparing them well enough for college.

It’s a big deal in a country that prides itself on its tech savvy. And the question is how does it get any better, with our government so in debt and making it harder to get student loans. It’s not good if the demand for higher skills that’s equating into higher wages for college graduates isn’t due to a strength but to a weakness, not to demand for a better understanding of the Internet and computers, but a supply of qualified workers.

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