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The Race Between Machine and Man: Implications of Technology for Growth, Factor Shares and Employment

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  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Pascual Restrepo

Abstract

We examine the concerns that new technologies will render labor redundant in a framework in which tasks previously performed by labor can be automated and new versions of existing tasks, in which labor has a comparative advantage, can be created. In a static version where capital is fixed and technology is exogenous, automation reduces employment and the labor share, and may even reduce wages, while the creation of new tasks has the opposite effects. Our full model endogenizes capital accumulation and the direction of research towards automation and the creation of new tasks. If the long-run rental rate of capital relative to the wage is sufficiently low, the long-run equilibrium involves automation of all tasks. Otherwise, there exists a stable balanced growth path in which the two types of innovations go hand-in-hand. Stability is a consequence of the fact that automation reduces the cost of producing using labor, and thus discourages further automation and encourages the creation of new tasks. In an extension with heterogeneous skills, we show that inequality increases during transitions driven both by faster automation and introduction of new tasks, and characterize the conditions under which inequality is increasing or stable in the long run.

Suggested Citation

  • Daron Acemoglu & Pascual Restrepo, 2016. "The Race Between Machine and Man: Implications of Technology for Growth, Factor Shares and Employment," NBER Working Papers 22252, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22252
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman & Ezra Oberfield & Thomas Sampson, 2017. "Balanced Growth Despite Uzawa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(4), pages 1293-1312, April.
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      • Greenwood, J. & Yorukoglu, M., 1996. "1974," RCER Working Papers 429, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
    3. Jeffrey Lin, 2011. "Technological Adaptation, Cities, and New Work," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 554-574, May.
    4. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    5. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2000. "Ability-Biased Technological Transition, Wage Inequality, and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(2), pages 469-497.
    6. Ezra Oberfield & Devesh Raval, 2012. "Micro data and macro technology," Working Paper Series WP-2012-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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