DP9455 | Multitasking and Wages

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This paper sheds light on how changes in the organization of work can help to understand increasing wage inequality. We present a theoretical model in which workers with a wider span of competence (higher level of multitasking) earn a wage premium. Since abilities and opportunities to expand the span of competence are distributed unequally among workers across and within education groups, our theory helps to explain (1) rising wage inequality between groups, and (2) rising wage inequality within groups. Under certain assumptions, it also helps to explain (3) the polarization of the income distribution. Using a rich German data set covering a 20-year period from 1986 to 2006, we provide empirical support for our model.