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Task Specialization in U.S. Cities from 1880-2000

  • Guy Michaels
  • Ferdinand Rauch
  • Stephen J. Redding

We develop a new methodology for quantifying the tasks undertaken within occupations using 3,000 verbs from around 12,000 occupational descriptions in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOTs). Using micro-data from the United States from 1880-2000, we find an increase in the employment share of interactive occupations within sectors over time that is larger in metro areas than non-metro areas. We provide evidence that this increase in the interactiveness of employment is related to the dissemination of improvements in transport and communication technologies. Our findings highlight a change in the nature of agglomeration over time towards an increased emphasis on human interaction.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp1186.

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Date of creation: Feb 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1186
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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  1. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Pierre-Daniel G. Sarte & Raymond E. Owens, 2005. "Firm fragmentation and urban patterns," Working Paper 05-03, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  2. Gray, Rowena, 2013. "Taking technology to task: The skill content of technological change in early twentieth century United States," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 351-367.
  3. Michaels, Guy & Rauch, Ferdinand & Redding, Stephen J., 2008. "Urbanization and Structural Transformation," CEPR Discussion Papers 7016, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. 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.
  5. Gaspar, Jess & Glaeser, Edward L., 1998. "Information Technology and the Future of Cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 136-156, January.
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  7. Ngai, L. Rachel & Pissarides, Christopher A., 2005. "Structural Change in a Multi-Sector Model of Growth," IZA Discussion Papers 1800, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Combes, Pierre-Philippe & Duranton, Gilles & Gobillon, Laurent & Puga, Diego & Roux, Sébastien, 2009. "The productivity advantages of large cities: Distinguishing agglomeration from firm selection," CEPR Discussion Papers 7191, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Gilles Duranton & Diego Puga, 2000. "Nursery cities: urban diversity, process innovation and the life-cycle of products," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20204, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  10. Guy Michaels, 2006. "The effect of trade on the demand for skill - evidence from the interstate highway system," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19767, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  11. Morris A. Davis & Francois Ortalo-Magne, 2011. "Household Expenditures, Wages, Rents," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 14(2), pages 248-261, April.
  12. Gene M. Grossman & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2008. "Trading Tasks: A Simple Theory of Offshoring," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1978-97, December.
  13. Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 1999. "Power Couples: Changes in the Locational Choice of the College Educated, 1940-1990," NBER Working Papers 7109, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Rosenthal, Stuart S. & Strange, William C., 2004. "Evidence on the nature and sources of agglomeration economies," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 49, pages 2119-2171 Elsevier.
  15. Helsley, Robert W. & Strange, William C., 2007. "Agglomeration, opportunism, and the organization of production," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 55-75, July.
  16. Duranton, Gilles & Puga, Diego, 2001. "From Sectoral to Functional Urban Specialization," CEPR Discussion Papers 2971, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  17. Becker, Sascha & Ekholm, Karolina & Muendler, Marc-Andreas, 2012. "Offshoring and the Onshore Composition of Tasks and Skills," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 97, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  18. Marigee Bacolod & Bernardo S. Blum & William C. Strange, 2009. "Urban interactions: soft skills versus specialization," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(2), pages 227-262, March.
  19. J.V. Henderson, 1972. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," Working Papers 75, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  20. Jeffrey Lin, 2011. "Technological Adaptation, Cities, and New Work," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 554-574, May.
  21. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, 2007. "Did Highways Cause Suburbanization?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(2), pages 775-805, 05.
  22. David H. Autor & Michael J. Handel, 2009. "Putting Tasks to the Test: Human Capital, Job Tasks and Wages," NBER Working Papers 15116, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Ota, Mitsuru & Fujita, Masahisa, 1993. "Communication technologies and spatial organization of multi-unit firms in metropolitan areas," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(6), pages 695-729, December.
  24. Henderson, J. Vernon, 2003. "Marshall's scale economies," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-28, January.
  25. Duranton, Gilles & Jayet, Hubert, 2011. "Is the division of labour limited by the extent of the market? Evidence from French cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 56-71, January.
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