The division of labor, coordination, and the demand for information processing
Since Adam Smith’s time, the division of labor 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 labor 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 labor 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 labor. 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:||2007|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
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.:
- 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.
- Goldin, Claudia, 1998. "America's Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century," Scholarly Articles 2664307, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- 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.
- 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," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(3), pages 511-529, April.
- 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.
- 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.
- David Autor & Frank Levy & Richard 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, 2001. "The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," NBER Working Papers 8337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- 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 & 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.
- Jacques Cremer & Luis Garicano & Andrea Prat, 2006.
"Language and the Theory of the Firm,"
784828000000000373, UCLA Department of Economics.
- Acemoglu, Daron, 2002.
"Directed Technical Change,"
Review of Economic Studies,
Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(4), pages 781-809, October.
- 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.
- 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.
- William D. Nordhaus, 2001. "The Progress of Computing," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1324, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dale W. Jorgenson, 2001. "Information Technology and the U.S. Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 1-32, March.
- 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.
- Dale W. Jorgenson, 2001. "Information Technology and the U. S. Economy," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1911, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:51600. 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.