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This Job is 'Getting Old:' Measuring Changes in Job Opportunities Using Occupational Age Structure

  • David Autor
  • David Dorn

High- and low-wage occupations are expanding rapidly relative to middle-wage occupations in both the U.S. and the E.U. We study the reallocation of workers from middle-skill occupations towards the tails of the occupational skill distribution by analyzing changes in age structure within and across occupations. Because occupations typically expand by hiring young workers and contract by curtailing such hiring, we posit that growing occupations will get younger while shrinking occupations will 'get old.' After verifying this proposition, we apply this observation to local labor markets in the U.S. to test whether markets that were specialized in middle-skilled occupations in 1980 saw a differential movement of both older and younger workers into occupations at the tails of the skill distribution over the subsequent 25 years. Consistent with aggregate trends, employment in initially middle-skill-intensive labor markets hollowed-out between 1980 and 2005. Employment losses among non-college workers in the middle of the occupational skill distribution were almost entirely countered by employment growth in lower-tail occupations. For college workers, employment losses at the middle were offset in roughly equal measures by gains in the upper- and lower-tails of the occupational skill distribution. But gains at the upper-tail were almost entirely limited to young college workers. Consequently, older college workers are increasingly found in lower-skill, lower-paying occupations.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14652.

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Date of creation: Jan 2009
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Publication status: published as David Autor & John J. Siegfried & David Dorn, 2009. "This Job Is "Getting Old": Measuring Changes in Job Opportunities Using Occupational Age Structure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 45-51, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14652
Note: LS
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  1. Mazzolari, Francesca & Ragusa, Giuseppe, 2007. "Spillovers from High-Skill Consumption to Low-Skill Labor Markets," IZA Discussion Papers 3048, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Alan Manning, 2004. "We Can Work It Out: the Impact of Technological Change on the Demand for Low Skill Workers," CEP Discussion Papers dp0640, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  3. Alan Manning, 2004. "We Can Work It Out: The Impact of Technological Change on the Demand for Low-Skill Workers," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 51(5), pages 581-608, November.
  4. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2003. "Lousy and lovely jobs: the rising polarization of work in Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20002, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  5. Daron Acemoglu, 1999. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1259-1278, December.
  6. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2003. "Lousy and Lovely Jobs: the Rising Polarization of Work in Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0604, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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