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The Evolution of Technological Substitution in Low-Wage Labor Markets

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  • Daniel Aaronson
  • Brian J. Phelan

Abstract

This paper uses minimum wage hikes to evaluate the susceptibility of low-wage employment to technological substitution. We find that automation is accelerating and supplanting a broader set of low-wage routine jobs in the decade since the Financial Crisis. Simultaneously, low-wage interpersonal jobs are increasing and offsetting routine job loss. However, interpersonal job growth does not appear to be enough – as it was previous to the Financial Crisis – to fully offset the negative effects of automation on low-wage routine jobs. Employment losses are most evident among minority workers who experience outsized losses at routine-intensive jobs and smaller gains at interpersonal jobs.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Aaronson & Brian J. Phelan, 2020. "The Evolution of Technological Substitution in Low-Wage Labor Markets," Working Paper Series WP-2020-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:92699
    DOI: 10.21033/wp-2020-16
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Low-wage automation; routine-biased technical change; minimum wage;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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