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

The division of labor, coordination, and the demand for information processing

  • Guy Michaels

The Division of Labour, Coordination, and the Demand for Information Processing* Since Adam Smith's time, the division of labour in production has increased significantly, while information processing has become an important part of work. This paper examines whether the need to coordinate an increasingly complex division of labour has raised the demand for clerical office workers, who process information that is used to coordinate production. In order to examine this question empirically, I introduce a measure of the complexity of an industry's division of labour that uses the Herfindahl index of occupations it employs, excluding clerks and managers. Using US data I find that throughout the 20th century more complex industries employed relatively more clerks, and recent Mexican data shows a similar relationship. The relative complexity of industries is persistent over time and correlated across these two countries. I further document the relationship between complexity and the employment of clerks using an early information technology (IT) revolution that took place around 1900, when telephones, typewriters, and improved filing techniques were introduced. This IT revolution raised the demand for clerks in all manufacturing industries, but significantly more so in industries with a more complex division of labour. Interestingly, recent reductions in the price of IT have enabled firms to substitute computers for clerks, and I find that more complex industries have substituted clerks more rapidly.

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://eprints.lse.ac.uk/3251/
File Function: Open access version.
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 3251.

as
in new window

Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:3251
Contact details of provider: Postal: LSE Library Portugal Street London, WC2A 2HD, U.K.
Phone: +44 (020) 7405 7686
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/

More information through EDIRC

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. Duranton, Gilles & Jayet, Hubert, 2005. "Is the Division of Labour Limited By the Extent of the Market? Evidence from French Cities," CEPR Discussion Papers 5087, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Goldin, Claudia, 1998. "America's Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 345-374, June.
  3. Dale W. Jorgenson, 2001. "Information Technology and the U. S. Economy," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1911, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  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. 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.
  6. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Directed Technical Change," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 781-809.
  7. Jacques Cremer & Luis Garicano & Andrea Prat, 2006. "Language and the Theory of the Firm," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000373, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2006. "Organization and Inequality in a Knowledge Economy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1383-1435, November.
  9. Richard K. Fleischman & Thomas N. Tyson, 1993. "Cost accounting during the industrial revolution. the present state of historical knowledge," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 46(3), pages 503-517, 08.
  10. Paul Osterman, 1986. "The impact of computers on the employment of clerks and managers," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 39(2), pages 175-186, January.
  11. Garicano, Luis & Hubbard, Thomas, 2003. "Specialization, Firms and Markets: The division of Labour Between and Within Law Firms," CEPR Discussion Papers 3699, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Leora Friedberg, 2003. "The impact of technological change on older workers: Evidence from data on computer use," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(3), pages 511-529, April.
  13. William D. Nordhaus, 2001. "The Progress of Computing," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1324, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  14. Luis Garicano, 2000. "Hierarchies and the Organization of Knowledge in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 874-904, October.
  15. Leora Friedberg, 2003. "The Impact of Technological Change on Older Workers: Evidence from Data on Computer Use," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(3), pages 511-529, April.
  16. Dale W. Jorgenson, 2001. "Information Technology and the U.S. Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 1-32, 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:ehl:lserod:3251. 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: (LSERO Manager)

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.