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Horizontal and Vertical Polarization: Task-Specific Technological Change in a Multi-Sector Economy

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  • Sang Yoon Lee
  • Yongseok Shin

Abstract

We analyze the effect of technological change in a novel framework that integrates an economy's skill distribution with its occupational and industrial structure. Individuals become managers or workers based on their managerial vs. worker skills, and workers further sort into a continuum of tasks (occupations) ranked by skill content. Our theory dictates that faster technological progress for middle-skill tasks not only raises the employment shares and relative wages of lower- and higher-skill occupations among workers (horizontal polarization), but also raises those of managers over workers as a whole (vertical polarization). Both dimensions of polarization are faster within sectors that depend more on middle-skill tasks and less on managers. This endogenously leads to faster TFP growth of such sectors, whose employment and value-added shares shrink if sectoral goods are complementary (structural change). We present several novel facts that support our model, followed by a quantitative analysis showing that task-specific technological progress--which was fastest for occupations embodying routine-manual tasks but not interpersonal skills--is important for understanding changes in the sectoral, occupational, and organizational structure of the U.S. economy since 1980.

Suggested Citation

  • Sang Yoon Lee & Yongseok Shin, 2017. "Horizontal and Vertical Polarization: Task-Specific Technological Change in a Multi-Sector Economy," NBER Working Papers 23283, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23283
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:fip:fedlrv:00087 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Barany, Zsofia L. & Siegel, Christian, 2017. "Disentangling Occupation- and Sector-specific Technological Change," Economics Series 331, Institute for Advanced Studies.
    3. Aum, Sangmin & Lee, Tim & Shin, Yongseok, 2018. "Computerizing Industries and Routinizing Jobs: Explaining Trends in Aggregate Productivity," TSE Working Papers 18-893, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    4. repec:red:issued:16-380 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Maya Eden & Paul Gaggl, 2018. "On the Welfare Implications of Automation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 29, pages 15-43, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • L16 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Industrial Organization and Macroeconomics; Macroeconomic Industrial Structure
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • 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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