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Putting Tasks to the Test: Human Capital, Job Tasks and Wages

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  • David H. Autor
  • Michael J. Handel

Abstract

Employing original, representative survey data, we document that cognitive, interpersonal and physical job task demands can be measured with high validity using standard interview techniques. Job tasks vary substantially within and between occupations, are significantly related to workers' characteristics, and are robustly predictive of wage differentials both between occupations and among workers in the same occupation. We offer a conceptual framework that makes explicit the causal links between human capital endowments, occupational assignment, job tasks, and wages. This framework motivates a Roy (1951) model of the allocation of workers to occupations. Tests of the model’s implication that 'returns to tasks' must negatively covary among occupations are strongly supported.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15116.

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Date of creation: Jun 2009
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Publication status: published as David H. Autor & Michael J. Handel, 2013. "Putting Tasks to the Test: Human Capital, Job Tasks, and Wages," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(S1), pages S59 - S96.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15116

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Cited by:
  1. Baumgarten, Daniel & Geishecker, Ingo & Görg, Holger, 2013. "Offshoring, tasks, and the skill-wage pattern," Munich Reprints in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics 20143, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Michaels, Guy & Rauch, Ferdinand & Redding, Stephen J., 2013. "Task Specialization in U.S. Cities from 1880-2000," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 9308, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Christian Dustmann & Itzhak Fadlon & Yoram Weiss, 2010. "Return Migration, Human Capital Accumulation and the Brain Drain," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1013, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  4. Semih Akcomak & Suzanne Kok & Hugo Rojas-Romagosa, 2013. "The effects of technology and offshoring on changes in employment and task-content of occupations," CPB Discussion Paper, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis 233, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
  5. Bas ter Weel & Lex Borghans & Bruce A. Weinberg, 2013. "People Skills and the Labor-Market Outcomes of Underrepresented Groups," CPB Discussion Paper, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis 253, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
  6. Carl Sanders, 2012. "Skill Uncertainty, Skill Accumulation, and Occupational Choice," 2012 Meeting Papers, Society for Economic Dynamics 633, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  7. Chris Robinson, 2011. "Occupational Mobility, Occupation Distance and Specific Human Capital," University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity 20115, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity.
  8. Tobias Stoehr, 2013. "The Returns to Occupational Foreign Language Use: Evidence from Germany," Kiel Working Papers 1880, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  9. Koch, Andreas & Brändle, Tobias, 2013. "Outsourcing Potentials and International Tradability of Jobs. Evidence from German Micro-Level Data," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association 79727, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

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