Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Skills, Tasks and Technologies: Implications for Employment and Earnings

Contents:

Author Info

  • Daron Acemoglu
  • David Autor

Abstract

A central organizing framework of the voluminous recent literature studying changes in the returns to skills and the evolution of earnings inequality is what we refer to as the canonical model, which elegantly and powerfully operationalizes the supply and demand for skills by assuming two distinct skill groups that perform two different and imperfectly substitutable tasks or produce two imperfectly substitutable goods. Technology is assumed to take a factor-augmenting form, which, by complementing either high or low skill workers, can generate skill biased demand shifts. In this paper, we argue that despite its notable successes, the canonical model is largely silent on a number of central empirical developments of the last three decades, including: (1) significant declines in real wages of low skill workers, particularly low skill males; (2) non-monotone changes in wages at different parts of the earnings distribution during different decades; (3) broad-based increases in employment in high skill and low skill occupations relative to middle skilled occupations (i.e., job 'polarization'); (4) rapid diffusion of new technologies that directly substitute capital for labor in tasks previously performed by moderately-skilled workers; and (5) expanding offshoring opportunities, enabled by technology, which allow foreign labor to substitute for domestic workers in specific tasks. Motivated by these patterns, we argue that it is valuable to consider a richer framework for analyzing how recent changes in the earnings and employment distribution in the United States and other advanced economies are shaped by the interactions among worker skills, job tasks, evolving technologies, and shifting trading opportunities. We propose a tractable task-based model in which the assignment of skills to tasks is endogenous and technical change may involve the substitution of machines for certain tasks previously performed by labor. We further consider how the evolution of technology in this task-based setting may be endogenized. We show how such a framework can be used to interpret several central recent trends, and we also suggest further directions for empirical exploration.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w16082.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16082.

as in new window
Length:
Date of creation: Jun 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as -(With David Autor) Skills, Tasks and Technologies: Implications for Employment and Earnings, Handbook of Labor Economics, volume 4.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16082

Note: LS
Contact details of provider:
Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Email:
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords:

Other versions of this item:

Find related papers by JEL classification:

References

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page.

Lists

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
  1. Labor Economics (ECON 531)

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16082. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.