IZA DP No. 751: Are Computer Skills the New Basic Skills? The Returns to Computer, Writing and Math Skills in Britain
published in: Labour Economics, 2004, 11 (1), 85-98
The large increase in computer use has raised the question whether people have to be taught computer skills before entering the labour market. Using data from the 1997 Skills Survey of the Employed British Workforce, we argue that neither the increase in computer use nor the fact that particularly higher skilled workers use a computer provides evidence that computer skills are valuable. We compare computer skills with writing and math skills and test whether wages vary with computer skills, given the specific use that is made of computers. The regression results show that while the ability to write documents and to carry out mathematical analyses yields significant labour-market returns, the ability to effectively use a computer has no substantial impact on wages. These estimates suggest that writing and math can be regarded as basic skills, but that the higher wages of computer users are unrelated to computer skills.