Publication Date

August 2006


Wage inequality in the U.S. exceeds that of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. Some researchers have pointed to the higher relative rewards for higher cognitive skill and more education in the U.S. as an important cause of this difference; others emphasize the greater diversity of labor market skills within the American population. This paper uses recently collected international data on cognitive skills, earnings, age, and years of formal schooling to assess the relative importance of population heterogeneity and higher relative pay for more cognitive skill in explaining higher U.S. wage inequality.


Suggested Citation
Blau, F. D. & Kahn, L. M. (2006). The sources of international differences in wage inequality (ILR Impact Brief #10). Ithaca, NY: School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University.

For a more in-depth analysis, see Blau, F. D. & Kahn, L. M. (2003). Do cognitive test scores explain higher U.S. wage inequality?

The ILR Impact Brief series highlights the research and project based work conducted by ILR faculty that is relevant to workplace issues and public policy. The Briefs are prepared by Maralyn Edid, Senior Extension Associate, ILR School.

Required Publisher's Statement
Copyright by Cornell University.