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Technological Changes and Employment of Older Manufacturing Workers in Early Twentieth Century America

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  • Chulhee Lee

Abstract

This study explores how technological, organizational, and managerial changes affected the labor-market status of older male manufacturing workers in early twentieth century America. Industrial characteristics that were favorably related to the labor-market status of older industrial workers include: higher labor productivity, less capital- and material-intensive production, a shorter workday, lower intensity of work, greater job flexibility, and more formalized employment relationship. Technical innovations that improved productivity often negatively affected the quality of the work environment of older workers. These results suggest that the technological transformations in the Industrial Era brought mixed consequences to the labor-market status of older workers. On one hand, technical and organizational modifications improved the elderly workers’ employment prospect by raising labor productivity, diminishing hours of work, and formalizing employment relations. On the other hand, some types of technical innovations, which are characterized by additional requirements for physical strength, mental agility, and ability to acquire new skills, forced older workers out of their jobs. Since the pace and nature of technical change considerably differed across industries, and possibly across firms within the same industry, the labor-market experiences of individual older workers should have been highly heterogeneous.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14746.

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Date of creation: Feb 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14746

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  1. Boskin, Michael J, 1977. "Social Security and Retirement Decisions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 15(1), pages 1-25, January.
  2. Chulhee Lee, 1999. "Farm Value and Retirement of Farm Owners in Early-Twentieth-Century America," Working Paper Series no15, Institute of Economic Research, Seoul National University.
  3. Leora Friedberg, 2003. "The impact of technological change on older workers: Evidence from data on computer use," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(3), pages 511-529, April.
  4. Krueger, Alan B. & Meyer, Bruce D., 2002. "Labor supply effects of social insurance," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 33, pages 2327-2392 Elsevier.
  5. Parsons, Donald O., 1991. "Male Retirement Behavior in the United States, 1930–1950," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(03), pages 657-674, September.
  6. Clarence D. Long, 1958. "The Labor Force Under Changing Income and Employment," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number long58-1, octubre-d.
  7. Robert A. Margo, 1991. "The Labor Force Participation of Older Americans in 1900: Further Results," NBER Historical Working Papers 0027, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Chulhee Lee, 2000. "Intra-Household Transfers and Old-Age Security in America, 1890-1950," Working Paper Series no38, Institute of Economic Research, Seoul National University.
  9. C. Lee, . "Sectoral Shift and Labor Force Participation of Older Males in the United States, 1880-1940," CPE working papers 0011, University of Chicago - Centre for Population Economics.
  10. Michael D. Hurd & Michael J. Boskin, 1981. "The Effect of Social Security on Retirement in the Early 1970s," NBER Working Papers 0659, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Chulhee Lee, 2003. "Labor Market Status of Older Males in the United States, 1880-1940," NBER Working Papers 9550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Mulligan, William H., 1981. "Mechanization and Work in the American Shoe Industry: Lynn, Massachusetts, 1852–1883," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(01), pages 59-63, March.
  13. Devine, Warren D., 1983. "From Shafts to Wires: Historical Perspective on Electrification," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(02), pages 347-372, June.
  14. Joseph F. Quinn & Richard V. Burkhauser & Daniel A. Myers, 1990. "Passing the Torch: The Influence of Economic Incentives on Work and Retirement," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number pt, December.
  15. Parsons, Donald O, 1980. "The Decline in Male Labor Force Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 117-34, February.
  16. Lee, Chulhee, 1998. "Long-Term Unemployment and Retirement in Early-Twentieth-Century America," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 844-856, September.
  17. Michael Hurd & Kathleen McGarry, 1993. "The Relationship Between Job Characteristics and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 4558, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Chulhee Lee, 2009. "Labor Force Participation of Older Males in Korea: 1955-2005," NBER Working Papers 14800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Chulhee Lee, 2009. "Labor Force Participation of Older Males in Korea: 1955-2005," NBER Working Papers 14800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Chulhee Lee, 2010. "Labor-Force Participation of Older Males in Korea: 1955 to 2005," NBER Chapters, in: The Economic Consequences of Demographic Change in East Asia, NBER-EASE Volume 19, pages 281-313 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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