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Work of the Past, Work of the Future

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  • David H. Autor

Abstract

US cities today are vastly more educated and skill-intensive than they were five decades ago. Yet, urban non-college workers perform substantially less skilled jobs than decades earlier. This deskilling reflects the joint effects of automation and, secondarily, rising international trade, which have eliminated the bulk of non-college production, administrative support, and clerical jobs, yielding a disproportionate polarization of urban labor markets. The unwinding of the urban non-college occupational skill gradient has, I argue, abetted a secular fall in real non-college wages by: (1) shunting non-college workers out of specialized middle-skill occupations into low-wage occupations that require only generic skills; (2) diminishing the set of non-college workers that hold middle-skill jobs in high-wage cities; and (3) attenuating, to a startling degree, the steep urban wage premium for non-college workers that prevailed in earlier decades. Changes in the nature of work—many of which are technological in origin—have been more disruptive and less beneficial for non-college than college workers.

Suggested Citation

  • David H. Autor, 2019. "Work of the Past, Work of the Future," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 109, pages 1-32, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:apandp:v:109:y:2019:p:1-32
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/pandp.20191110
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Work of the Past, Work of the Future
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2019-03-27 14:33:13

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    Cited by:

    1. Andrés Rodríguez-Pose & Michael Storper, 2020. "Housing, urban growth and inequalities: The limits to deregulation and upzoning in reducing economic and spatial inequality," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 57(2), pages 223-248, February.
    2. Edward L. Glaeser, 2020. "Urbanization and its Discontents," NBER Working Papers 26839, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Pagano, Marco, 2020. "Risk Sharing Within the Firm: A Primer," Foundations and Trends(R) in Finance, now publishers, vol. 12(2), pages 117-198, October.
    4. David Autor & Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2020. "Extending the Race between Education and Technology," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 110, pages 347-351, May.
    5. Nada Wasi & Sasiwimon Warunsiri Paweenawat & Chinnawat Devahastin Na Ayudhya & Pucktada Treeratpituk & Chommanart Nittayo, 2019. "Labor Income Inequality in Thailand: the Roles of Education, Occupation and Employment History," PIER Discussion Papers 117, Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research, revised Dec 2019.
    6. Jo~ao Nicolau & Pedro Raposo & Paulo M. M. Rodrigues, 2020. "Measuring wage inequality under right censoring," Papers 2004.12856, arXiv.org.
    7. Carlianne Patrick & Heather M. Stephens, 2020. "Incentivizing the Missing Middle: The Role of Economic Development Policy," Economic Development Quarterly, , vol. 34(2), pages 154-170, May.
    8. Kemeny, Thomas & Storper, Michael, 2020. "Superstar cities and left-behind places: disruptive innovation, labor demand, and interregional inequality," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 103312, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Gérard P. Cachon & Karan Girotra & Serguei Netessine, 2020. "Interesting, Important, and Impactful Operations Management," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 22(1), pages 214-222, January.
    10. David Kunst, 2019. "Deskilling among Manufacturing Production Workers," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 19-050/VI, Tinbergen Institute.
    11. Alekseeva, Liudmila & Azar, José & Gine, Mireia & Samila, Sampsa & Taska, Bledi, 2020. "The Demand for AI Skills in the Labor Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 14320, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Fidrmuc, Jan & Hulényi, Martin & Tunalı, Çiğdem Börke, 2019. "Can money buy EU love?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 60(C).
    13. Edward L. Glaeser, 2020. "Urbanization and Its Discontents," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan;Eastern Economic Association, vol. 46(2), pages 191-218, April.
    14. Benjamin K. Couillard & Christopher L. Foote, 2019. "Recent Employment Growth in Cities, Suburbs, and Rural Communities," Working Papers 19-20, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, revised 01 Dec 2019.
    15. Teimouri, Sheida & Zietz, Joachim, 2020. "Coping with deindustrialization: A panel study for early OECD countries," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 26-41.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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