IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/brd/wpaper/25.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Evolution of Work

Author

Listed:
  • Markus Mobius

    (Harvard University)

  • Raphael Schoenle

    () (Department of Economics, Brandeis University)

Abstract

The division of labor first increased during industrialization and then decreased again after 1970 as job roles have expanded. We explain these trends in the organization of work through a simple model where (a) machines require standardization to exploit economies of scale and (b) more customized products are subject to trends and fashions which make production tasks less predictable and a strict division of labor impractical. At the onset of industrialization, the market supports only a small number of generic varieties which can be mass-produced under a strict division of labor. Thanks to productivity growth, niche markets gradually expand, producers eventually move into customized production and the division of labor decreases again. The model predicts capital-skill substitutability during industrialization and capital skill complementarity in the maturing industrial economy. Moreover, conventional calculations of the factor content of trade underestimate the impact of globalization because they do not take into account changes in product market competition induced by trade. We test our model by exploiting the time-lags in the introduction of bar-coding in three-digit SIC manufacturing industries in the US. We find that both increases in investments in computers and bar-coding have led to skill-upgrading. However, consistent with our model bar-coding has affected mainly the center of the skill distribution by shifting demand away from the high-school educated to the less-than-college educated.

Suggested Citation

  • Markus Mobius & Raphael Schoenle, 2006. "The Evolution of Work," Working Papers 25, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School.
  • Handle: RePEc:brd:wpaper:25
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.brandeis.edu/economics/RePEc/brd/doc/Brandeis_WP25.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2006
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Eli Bekman & John Bound & Stephen Machin, 1998. "Implications of Skill-Biased Technological Change: International Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1245-1279.
    2. B. Peter Pashigian & Brian Bowen, 1991. "Why Are Products Sold on Sale?: Explanations of Pricing Regularities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1015-1038.
    3. Galor, Oded & Tsiddon, Daniel, 1997. "Technological Progress, Mobility, and Economic Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 363-382, June.
    4. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2002. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization, and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 339-376.
    5. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-Century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34.
    6. repec:hrv:faseco:30703979 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1994. "The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 299-322 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Ethier, Wilfred J, 1982. "National and International Returns to Scale in the Modern Theory of International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 389-405, June.
    9. Mark Doms & Timothy Dunne & Kenneth R. Troske, 1997. "Workers, Wages, and Technology," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 253-290.
    10. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
    11. Daron Acemoglu, 1998. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change and Wage Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1055-1089.
    12. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213.
    13. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U. S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-397.
    14. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-528, June.
    15. Krugman, Paul R, 1981. "Intraindustry Specialization and the Gains from Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 959-973, October.
    16. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Howard J. Shatz, 1994. "Trade and Jobs in Manufacturing," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(1), pages 1-84.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Fernando A. Lozano & Mary J. Lopez, 2013. "Border Enforcement and Selection of Mexican Immigrants in the United States," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(1), pages 76-110, January.
    2. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    3. Kurokawa, Yoshinori, 2010. "Fixed cost, number of firms, and skill premium: An alternative source for rising wage inequality," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 108(2), pages 141-144, August.
    4. Maurin, Eric & Thesmar, David & Thoenig, Mathias, 2002. "Globalization and the demand for skill: An Export Based Channel," CEPR Discussion Papers 3406, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Hisashi Ohtsuki, 2011. "Evolutionary Dynamics of the Nash Demand Game: A Diffusion Approach," Dynamic Games and Applications, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 449-461, September.
    6. Dag Rønningen, 2007. "Are technological change and organizational change biased against older workers? Firm-level evidence," Discussion Papers 512, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    7. André Blais & Jean-Benoît Pilet & Karine Van Der Straeten & Jean-François Laslier & Maxime Heroux-Legault, 2011. "To vote or to abstain? An experimental study or first past the poste and PR elections," Working Papers hal-00616823, HAL.
    8. Birner, Regina & Davis, Kristin & Pender, John & Nkonya, Ephraim & Anandajayasekeram, Ponniah & Ekboir, Javier & Mbabu, Adiel & Spielman, David & Horna, Daniela & Benin, Samuel & Cohen, Marc J., 2006. "From "best practice" to "best fit": a framework for designing and analyzing pluralistic agricultural advisory services worldwide," FCND discussion papers 210, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Matthew F. Mitchell, 2005. "Specialization And The Skill Premium In The 20th Century," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 46(3), pages 935-955, August.
    10. Thomas J. Holmes & Matthew F. Mitchell, 2008. "A theory of factor allocation and plant size," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(2), pages 329-351.
    11. Jacques Durieu & Hans Haller & Philippe Solal, 2011. "Nonspecific Networking," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(1), pages 1-27, February.
    12. Yoshinori Kurokawa, 2014. "A Simple Model of Competition Policies, Trade, and the Skill Premium," Tsukuba Economics Working Papers 2014-002, Economics, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba, revised Sep 2017.
    13. Richard Baron & Jacques Durieu & Hans Haller & Rahul Savani & Philippe Solal, 2008. "Good neighbors are hard to find: computational complexity of network formation," Review of Economic Design, Springer;Society for Economic Design, vol. 12(1), pages 1-19, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:brd:wpaper:25. 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: (Leslie Yancich). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/gsbraus.html .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.