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Technological Changes and Employment of Older Manufacturing Workers in Early Twentieth Century America

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  • Chulhee Lee

Abstract

This study explores how technological, organizational, and managerial changes affected the labor-market status of older male manufacturing workers in early twentieth century America. Industrial characteristics that were favorably related to the labor-market status of older industrial workers include: higher labor productivity, less capital- and material-intensive production, a shorter workday, lower intensity of work, greater job flexibility, and more formalized employment relationship. Technical innovations that improved productivity often negatively affected the quality of the work environment of older workers. These results suggest that the technological transformations in the Industrial Era brought mixed consequences to the labor-market status of older workers. On one hand, technical and organizational modifications improved the elderly workers' employment prospect by raising labor productivity, diminishing hours of work, and formalizing employment relations. On the other hand, some types of technical innovations, which are characterized by additional requirements for physical strength, mental agility, and ability to acquire new skills, forced older workers out of their jobs. Since the pace and nature of technical change considerably differed across industries, and possibly across firms within the same industry, the labor-market experiences of individual older workers should have been highly heterogeneous.

Suggested Citation

  • Chulhee Lee, 2009. "Technological Changes and Employment of Older Manufacturing Workers in Early Twentieth Century America," NBER Working Papers 14746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14746
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    Cited by:

    1. Chulhee Lee, 2010. "Labor-Force Participation of Older Males in Korea: 1955 to 2005," NBER Chapters, in: The Economic Consequences of Demographic Change in East Asia, pages 281-313, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • J81 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Working Conditions
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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