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Task Specialization in U.S. Cities from 1880-2000

  • Guy Michaels
  • Ferdinand Rauch
  • Stephen J. Redding

We develop a new methodology for quantifying the tasks undertaken within occupations using 3,000 verbs from around 12,000 occupational descriptions in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOTs). Using micro-data from the United States from 1880-2000, we find an increase in the employment share of interactive occupations within sectors over time that is larger in metro areas than non-metro areas. We provide evidence that this increase in the interactiveness of employment is related to the dissemination of improvements in transport and communication technologies. Our findings highlight a change in the nature of agglomeration over time towards an increased emphasis on human interaction.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18715.

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Date of creation: Jan 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18715
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  1. Sascha O. Becker & Karolina Ekholm & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2009. "Offshoring and the Onshore Composition of Tasks and Skills," IAW Discussion Papers 55, Institut für Angewandte Wirtschaftsforschung (IAW).
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  3. 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.
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  6. Pierre-Philippe COMBES & Gilles DURANTON & Laurent GOBILLON & Diego PUGA & Sébastien ROUX, 2009. "The Productivity Advantages of Large Cities : Distinguishing Agglomeration from Firm Selection," Working Papers 2009-08, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  7. Jess Gaspar & Edward L. Glaeser, 1996. "Information Technology and the Future of Cities," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1756, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  8. Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 1999. "Power Couples: Changes in the Locational Choice of the College Educated, 1940-1990," NBER Working Papers 7109, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Guy Michaels, 2007. "The effect of trade on the demand for skill - evidence from the interstate highway system," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3268, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  10. Henderson, J V, 1974. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(4), pages 640-56, September.
  11. Gilles Duranton & Diego Puga, 2001. "Nursery Cities: Urban Diversity, Process Innovation, and the Life Cycle of Products," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1454-1477, December.
  12. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, 2007. "Did Highways Cause Suburbanization?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(2), pages 775-805, 05.
  13. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Pierre-Daniel G. Sarte & Raymond E. Owens, 2005. "Firm fragmentation and urban patterns," Working Paper 05-03, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  14. Rowena Gray, 2011. "Taking Technology to Task: The Skill Content of Technological Change in Early Twentieth Century United States," Working Papers 0009, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
  15. Gene M. Grossman & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2006. "Trading Tasks: A Simple Theory of Offshoring," NBER Working Papers 12721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Marigee Bacolod & Bernardo S. Blum & William C. Strange, 2009. "Urban interactions: soft skills versus specialization," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(2), pages 227-262, March.
  17. Duranton, Gilles & Puga, Diego, 2005. "From sectoral to functional urban specialisation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 343-370, March.
  18. Guy Michaels & Ferdinand Rauch & Stephen Redding, 2008. "Urbanisation and structural transformation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 25495, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  19. Duranton, Gilles & Jayet, Hubert, 2005. "Is the Division of Labour Limited By the Extent of the Market? Evidence from French Cities," CEPR Discussion Papers 5087, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  20. Jeffrey Lin, 2011. "Technological Adaptation, Cities, and New Work," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 554-574, May.
  21. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2001. "The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," NBER Working Papers 8337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Bacolod, Marigee & Blum, Bernardo S. & Strange, William C., 2009. "Skills in the city," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 136-153, March.
  23. Ota, Mitsuru & Fujita, Masahisa, 1993. "Communication technologies and spatial organization of multi-unit firms in metropolitan areas," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(6), pages 695-729, December.
  24. Helsley, Robert W. & Strange, William C., 2007. "Agglomeration, opportunism, and the organization of production," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 55-75, July.
  25. Rosenthal, Stuart S. & Strange, William C., 2004. "Evidence on the nature and sources of agglomeration economies," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 49, pages 2119-2171 Elsevier.
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