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Demographics and Automation
[Automation and Demographic Change]


  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Pascual Restrepo


We argue theoretically and document empirically that aging leads to greater (industrial) automation, because it creates a shortage of middle-aged workers specializing in manual production tasks. We show that demographic change is associated with greater adoption of robots and other automation technologies across countries and with more robotics-related activities across U.S. commuting zones. We also document more automation innovation in countries undergoing faster aging. Our directed technological change model predicts that the response of automation technologies to aging should be more pronounced in industries that rely more on middle-aged workers and those that present greater opportunities for automation and that productivity should improve and the labor share should decline relatively in industries that are more amenable to automation. The evidence supports all four of these predictions.

Suggested Citation

  • Daron Acemoglu & Pascual Restrepo, 2022. "Demographics and Automation [Automation and Demographic Change]," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 89(1), pages 1-44.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:89:y:2022:i:1:p:1-44.

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    More about this item


    Aging; Automation; Demographic change; Economic growth; Directed technological change; Productivity; Robots; Tasks; Technology;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • 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
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries


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