The United States led all other nations in the development of universal and publicly-funded secondary school education and much of the growth occurred from 1910 to 1940. The focus here is on the reasons for the high school movement' in American generally and why it occurred so early and swiftly in America's heartland - a region we dub the 'education belt.' At the center of this belt' was the state of Iowa and we use information from the unique 1915 Iowa State Census to explore the factors, at both the county and individual levels, that propelled states like Iowa to embrace secondary school education very early. Iowa's small towns, as well as those across the nation, were the loci of the high school movement. In an analysis at the national level, we find that greater homogeneity of income or wealth, a higher level of wealth, greater community stability, and more ethnic and religious homogeneity fostered high school expansion from 1910 to 1930. The pecuniary returns to secondary school education were high - on the order of 12 percent per year in 1914 - providing substantial private incentives for high school attendance. State-level measures of social capital today are strongly correlated with economic and schooling variables from 1900 to 1930. The social capital assembled locally in the early part of the century, which apparently fueled part of the high school movement, continues to contribute to human capital formation.
Wage subsidies to private employers have often been proposed by economists as a potentially flexible and efficient method to improve the earnings and employment of low-wage workers. This paper lays out the basic economics of wage subsidies; examines issues arising in the design of alternative forms of wage subsidies; and reviews evidence on the effectiveness of recent U.S. wage subsidy programs and demonstration projects. Wage subsidies to employers to hire disadvantaged workers appear to modestly raise the demand for labor for those workers. Stand-alone wage subsidies (or employment tax credits) that are highly targeted on very specific groups (such as welfare recipients) appear to have low utilization rates and may (in some cases) stigmatize the targeted group. But new evidence based on an examination of changes in eligibility rules for the Targeted Jobs Tax Credit, the major U.S. wage subsidy program for the economically disadvantaged from 1979 to 1994, suggests modest positive employment effects of the TJTC on economically disadvantaged young adults. Policies combining wage subsidies with job development, training, and job search assistance efforts appear to have been somewhat successful in improving the employment and earnings of specific targeted disadvantaged groups.
This paper examines the effect of skill-biased technological change as measured by computerization on the recent widening of U. S. educational wage differentials. An analysis of aggregate changes in the relative supplies and wages of workers by education from 1940 to 1996 indicates strong and persistent growth in relative demand favoring college graduates. Rapid skill upgrading within detailed industries accounts for most of the growth in the relative demand for college workers, particularly since 1970. Analyses of four data sets indicate that the rate of skill upgrading has been greater in more computer-intensive industries.