The division of labor, coordination, and the demand for information processing
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.
|Date of creation:||Jun 2007|
|Date of revision:|
|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
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.:
- 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.
- 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.
- Dale W. Jorgenson, 2001. "Information Technology and the U. S. Economy," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1911, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Dale W. Jorgenson, 2001. "Information Technology and the U.S. Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 1-32, March.
- David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2001.
"The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration,"
NBER Working Papers
8337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- 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.
- David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1279-1333.
- Goldin, Claudia, 1998.
"America's Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century,"
2664307, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- 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.
- Paul Osterman, 1986. "The Impact of Computers on the Employment of Clerks and Managers," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 39(2), pages 175-186, January.
- Daron Acemoglu, 2002.
"Directed Technical Change,"
Review of Economic Studies,
Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 781-809.
- 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.
- Goldin, Claudia D. & Katz, Lawrence F., 1998.
"The Origins of Technology-Skill Complementarity,"
27867130, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- Leora Friedberg, 2001.
"The Impact of Technological Change on Older Workers: Evidence from Data on Computer Use,"
NBER Working Papers
8297, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- 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.
- Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2006.
"Organization and Inequality in a Knowledge Economy,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1383-1435.
- Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2005. "Organization and Inequality in a Knowledge Economy," NBER Working Papers 11458, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- 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.
- Jacques Crémer & Luis Garicano & Andrea Prat, 2007.
"Language and the Theory of the Firm,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 373-407.
- 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.
- William D. Nordhaus, 2001. "The Progress of Computing," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1324, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.