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Putting Tasks to the Test: Human Capital, Job Tasks and Wages

  • David H. Autor
  • Michael J. Handel

Employing original, representative survey data, we document that cognitive, interpersonal and physical job task demands can be measured with high validity using standard interview techniques. Job tasks vary substantially within and between occupations, are significantly related to workers' characteristics, and are robustly predictive of wage differentials both between occupations and among workers in the same occupation. We offer a conceptual framework that makes explicit the causal links between human capital endowments, occupational assignment, job tasks, and wages. This framework motivates a Roy (1951) model of the allocation of workers to occupations. Tests of the model's implication that 'returns to tasks' must negatively covary among occupations are strongly supported.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15116.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15116.

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Date of creation: Jun 2009
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Publication status: published as David H. Autor & Michael J. Handel, 2013. "Putting Tasks to the Test: Human Capital, Job Tasks, and Wages," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(S1), pages S59 - S96.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15116
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  1. Marianne Bertrand & Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2009. "Dynamics of the Gender Gap for Young Professionals in the Corporate and Financial Sectors," NBER Working Papers 14681, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  11. 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.
  12. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Introduction to "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings"," NBER Chapters, in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 1-4 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 2006. "Technical Change, Job Tasks, and Rising Educational Demands: Looking outside the Wage Structure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 235-270, April.
  14. Ann Bartel & Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn Shaw, 2007. "How Does Information Technology Affect Productivity? Plant-Level Comparisons of Product Innovation, Process Improvement, and Worker Skills," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1721-1758.
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