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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. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Pierre-Daniel Sarte & Raymond Owens, 2005. "Firm Fragmentation and Urban Patterns," Discussion Papers 04-019, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  2. Gaspar, Jess & Glaeser, Edward L., 1998. "Information Technology and the Future of Cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 136-156, January.
  3. Michaels, Guy, 2007. "The Effect of Trade on the Demand for Skill - Evidence from the Interstate Highway System," CEPR Discussion Papers 6056, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. 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 2009-02, Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados (IMDEA) Ciencias Sociales, revised 30 Nov 2010.
  5. Gene M. Grossman & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2006. "Trading Tasks: A Simple Theory of Offshoring," NBER Working Papers 12721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Duranton, Gilles & Jayet, Hubert, 2011. "Is the division of labour limited by the extent of the market? Evidence from French cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 56-71, January.
  7. Ngai, Liwa Rachel & Pissarides, Christopher, 2004. "Structural Change in a Multi-Sector Model of Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 4763, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Gilles Duranton & Diego Puga, 2000. "Nursery cities: urban diversity, process innovation and the life-cycle of products," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20204, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  9. Morris A. Davis & Francois Ortalo-Magne, 2011. "Household Expenditures, Wages, Rents," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 14(2), pages 248-261, April.
  10. David Autor & Frank Levy & Richard Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
  11. 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.
  12. 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).
  13. 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.
  14. Gilles Duranton & Diego Puga, 2001. "From sectoral to functional urban specialisation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20101, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  15. David H. Autor & Michael J. Handel, 2009. "Putting Tasks to the Test: Human Capital, Job Tasks and Wages," NBER Working Papers 15116, 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. Vernon Henderson, 2001. "Marshall's Scale Economies," Working Papers 01-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  18. Guy Michaels & Ferdinand Rauch & Stephen Redding, 2008. "Urbanisation and Structural Transformation," CEP Discussion Papers dp0892, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  19. 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.
  20. J.V. Henderson, 1972. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," Working Papers 75, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  21. Jeffrey Lin, 2009. "Technological adaptation, cities and new work," Working Papers 09-17, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  22. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, 2007. "Did Highways Cause Suburbanization?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(2), pages 775-805, 05.
  23. 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.
  24. 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).
  25. 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.
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