Was Mechanization De-Skilling? The Origins of Task-Biased Technical Change
AbstractDid nineteenth century technology reduce demand for skilled workers in contrast to modern technology? I obtain direct evidence on human capital investments and the returns to skill by using micro-data on individual weavers and an engineering production function. Weavers learned substantially on the job. While mechanization eliminated some tasks and the associated skills, it increased returns to skill on the remaining tasks. Technical change was task-biased, much as with computer technology. As more tasks were automated, weavers’ human capital increased substantially. Although technology increased the demand for skill like today, weavers’ wages eventually increased and inequality decreased, contrary to current trends.
Download InfoIf 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.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Research on Innovation in its series Working Papers with number 1101.
Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Web page: http://www.researchoninnovation.org
skill-biased technical change; technology; mechanization; human capital; wage inequality; learning-by-doing;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
- N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
- O33 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Technological Change; Research and Development; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2011-07-02 (All new papers)
- NEP-HIS-2011-07-02 (Business, Economic & Financial History)
- NEP-HRM-2011-07-02 (Human Capital & Human Resource Management)
- NEP-LAB-2011-07-02 (Labour Economics)
You can help add them by filling out this form.
CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
- Autor, David, 2013.
"The "Task Approach" to Labor Markets: An Overview,"
IZA Discussion Papers
7178, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Autor, David H., 2013. "The "task approach" to labor markets : an overview," Journal for Labour Market Research, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany], vol. 46(3), pages 185-199.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jim Bessen).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.