IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Taking technology to task: The skill content of technological change in early twentieth century United States

  • Gray, Rowena

This paper uses new data on the task content of occupations to present a new picture of the labor market effects of technological change in pre-WWII United States. I show that, similar to the recent computerization episode, the electrification of the manufacturing sector led to a “hollowing out” of the skill distribution whereby workers in the middle of the distribution lost out to those at the extremes. OLS estimates show that electrification increased the demand for clerical, numerical, planning and people skills relative to manual skills while simultaneously reducing relative demand for the dexterity-intensive jobs which comprised the middle of the skill distribution. Thus, early twentieth century technological change was unskill-biased for blue collar tasks but skill-biased on aggregate. These results are in line with the downward trend in wage differentials within U.S. manufacturing up to 1950.

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.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014498313000144
Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

Volume (Year): 50 (2013)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 351-367

as
in new window

Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:50:y:2013:i:3:p:351-367
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622830

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Sandra E. Black & Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 2007. "Explaining Women's Success: Technological Change and the Skill Content of Women's Work," NBER Working Papers 13116, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Daron Acemoglu, 1998. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change And Wage Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1055-1089, November.
  3. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The Skill Content Of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1279-1333, November.
  4. Guy Michaels & Ferdinand Rauch & Stephen J. Redding, 2013. "Task Specialization in U.S. Cities from 1880-2000," CEP Discussion Papers dp1186, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  5. Boyan Jovanovic & Peter L. Rousseau, 2005. "General Purpose Technologies," NBER Working Papers 11093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Stephen Machin & John Van Reenen, 1998. "Technology and changes in skill structure: evidence from seven OECD countries," IFS Working Papers W98/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  7. Sundstrom, William A., 1994. "The Color Line: Racial Norms and Discrimination in Urban Labor Markets, 1910–1950," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(02), pages 382-396, June.
  8. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," NBER Working Papers 5956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Daron Acemoglu, 1999. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1259-1278, December.
  10. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2006. "The Polarization of the U.S. Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 189-194, May.
  11. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred, 1992. "How Long Was the Workday in 1880?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(01), pages 129-160, March.
  12. Barham, Tania & Lipscomb, Molly & Mobarak, Ahmed Mushfiq, 2011. "Development Effects of Electrification: Evidence from the Geologic Placement of Hydropower Plants in Brazil," CEPR Discussion Papers 8427, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
  14. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1998. "The Origins Of Technology-Skill Complementarity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 693-732, August.
  15. Whaples, Robert, 1990. "Winning the Eight-Hour Day, 1909–1919," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(02), pages 393-406, June.
  16. Giovanni Peri & Chad Sparber, 2008. "Task Specialization, Immigration, and Wages," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0802, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  17. Lawrence F. Katz & Robert A. Margo, 2013. "Technical Change and the Relative Demand for Skilled Labor: The United States in Historical Perspective," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital in History: The American Record, pages 15-57 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Margo, Robert A, 1986. "Race and Human Capital: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1221-24, December.
  19. Aimee Chin & Chinhui Juhn & Peter Thompson, 2006. "Technical Change and the Demand for Skills during the Second Industrial Revolution: Evidence from the Merchant Marine, 1891-1912," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 572-578, August.
  20. Hausman, William J. & Neufeld, John L., 2002. "The Market for Capital and the Origins of State Regulation of Electric Utilities in the United States," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(04), pages 1050-1073, December.
  21. Alexander James Field, 1980. "Industrialization and Skill Intensity: The Case of Massachusetts," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 15(2), pages 149-175.
  22. Mitchener, Kris James & McLean, Ian W., 1999. "U.S.Regional Growth And Convergence, 1880–1980," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(04), pages 1016-1042, December.
  23. Christopher R. Knittel, 2006. "THE ADOPTION OF STATE ELECTRICITY REGULATION: THE ROLE OF INTEREST GROUPS -super-* ," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2), pages 201-222, 06.
  24. Harry Jerome, 1934. "Mechanization in Industry," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number jero34-1, October.
  25. Marina Adshade & Ian Keay, 2010. "Technological and Organizational Change and the Employment of Women: Early Twentieth-Century Evidence from the Ohio Manufacturing Sector," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 129-157.
  26. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2004. "Skill Intensity and Rising Wage Dispersion in Nineteenth-Century American Manufacturing," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(01), pages 172-192, March.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:50:y:2013:i:3:p:351-367. 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: (Zhang, Lei)

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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.