Skip to main content

CEP discussion paper

Technical change and superstar effects: evidence from the roll-out of television


Technical change that improves economies of scale can generate fast income growth among top earners at the expense of everyone else. I test this classic “superstar model” in the labor market for entertainers where the historic roll-out of television led to a natural experiment in scale-related technological change. The launch of a local TV station multiplied audiences of top entertainers nearly fourfold and resulted in a 50% increase of the top percentile’s income share, a more right-skewed income distribution, and significant income losses for lower ranked entertainers. The results confirm the predictions of the “superstar model” and are at odds with canonical models of skill-biased technological change.


Felix Koenig

15 November 2019     Paper Number CEPDP1663

Download PDF - Technical change and superstar effects: evidence from the roll-out of television

This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Labour markets programme.