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The Rise of the Machines: Automation, Horizontal Innovation, and Income Inequality

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  • David Hémous
  • Morten Olsen

Abstract

We build an endogenous growth model with automation (the replacement of low-skill workers with machines) and horizontal innovation (the creation of new products). Over time, the share of automation innovations endogenously increases through an increase in low-skill wages, leading to an increase in the skill premium and a decline in the labor share. We calibrate the model to the US economy and show that it quantitatively replicates the paths of the skill premium, the labor share, and labor productivity. Our model offers a new perspective on recent trends in the income distribution by showing that they can be explained endogenously.

Suggested Citation

  • David Hémous & Morten Olsen, 2022. "The Rise of the Machines: Automation, Horizontal Innovation, and Income Inequality," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 179-223, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmac:v:14:y:2022:i:1:p:179-223
    DOI: 10.1257/mac.20160164
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O41 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - One, Two, and Multisector Growth Models

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