The Skill Complementarity of Broadband Internet
Anders Akerman, Ingvil Gaarder and Magne Mogstad
Photo: Oxford University Press
The Quarterly Journal of Economics, volume 130, pp. 1781-1824, 2015
Does adoption of broadband internet in firms enhance labor productivity and increase wages? Is this technological change skill biased or factor neutral? We combine several Norwegian data sets to answer these questions. A public program with limited funding rolled out broadband access points and provides plausibly exogenous variation in the availability and adoption of broadband internet in firms. Our results suggest that broadband internet improves (worsens) the labor market outcomes and productivity of skilled (unskilled) workers. We explore several possible explanations for the skill complementarity of broadband internet. We find suggestive evidence that broadband adoption in firms complements skilled workers in executing nonroutine abstract tasks, and substitutes for unskilled workers in performing routine tasks. Taken together, our findings have important implications for the ongoing policy debate over government investment in broadband infrastructure to encourage productivity and wage growth.