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.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Research on Innovation in its series Working Papers with number 1101.
Date of creation: 2011
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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)
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- David H. Autor, 2013.
"The "Task Approach" to Labor Markets: An Overview,"
NBER Working Papers
18711, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- 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.
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