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

  • Chulhee Lee

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14746.

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Date of creation: Feb 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14746
Note: AG DAE
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  1. Chulhee Lee, 1999. "Farm Value and Retirement of Farm Owners in Early-Twentieth-Century America," Working Paper Series no15, Institute of Economic Research, Seoul National University.
  2. Michael Hurd & Kathleen McGarry, 1993. "The Relationship Between Job Characteristics and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 4558, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Chulhee Lee, 2004. "Intra-household transfers and old-age security in America, 1890-1950," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(1), pages 79-102.
  4. Alan B. Krueger & Bruce D. Meyer, 2002. "Labor Supply Effects of Social Insurance," NBER Working Papers 9014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Michael D. Hurd & Michael J. Boskin, 1981. "The Effect of Social Security on Retirement in the Early 1970s," NBER Working Papers 0659, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Chulhee Lee, 2009. "Labor Force Participation of Older Males in Korea: 1955-2005," NBER Working Papers 14800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Margo Robert A., 1993. "The Labor Force Participation of Older Americans in 1900: Further Results," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 409-423, October.
  8. 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.
  9. Chulhee Lee, 1999. "Sectoral Shift and Labor Force Participation of Older Males in the United States, 1880-1940," Working Paper Series no25, Institute of Economic Research, Seoul National University.
  10. Chulhee Lee, 2003. "Labor Market Status of Older Males in the United States, 1880-1940," NBER Working Papers 9550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Boskin, Michael J, 1977. "Social Security and Retirement Decisions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 15(1), pages 1-25, January.
  12. Parsons, Donald O, 1980. "The Decline in Male Labor Force Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 117-34, February.
  13. Joseph F. Quinn & Richard V. Burkhauser & Daniel A. Myers, 1990. "Passing the Torch: The Influence of Economic Incentives on Work and Retirement," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number pt, November.
  14. Devine, Warren D., 1983. "From Shafts to Wires: Historical Perspective on Electrification," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(02), pages 347-372, June.
  15. Clarence D. Long, 1958. "The Labor Force Under Changing Income and Employment," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number long58-1.
  16. Lee, Chulhee, 1998. "Long-Term Unemployment and Retirement in Early-Twentieth-Century America," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 844-856, September.
  17. Mulligan, William H., 1981. "Mechanization and Work in the American Shoe Industry: Lynn, Massachusetts, 1852–1883," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(01), pages 59-63, March.
  18. Parsons, Donald O., 1991. "Male Retirement Behavior in the United States, 1930–1950," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(03), pages 657-674, September.
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