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People Versus Machines: The Impact of Minimum Wages on Automatable Jobs

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  • Grace Lordan
  • David Neumark

Abstract

We study the effect of minimum wage increases on employment in automatable jobs – jobs in which employers may find it easier to substitute machines for people – focusing on low-skilled workers for whom such substitution may be spurred by minimum wage increases. Based on CPS data from 1980-2015, we find that increasing the minimum wage decreases significantly the share of automatable employment held by low-skilled workers, and increases the likelihood that low-skilled workers in automatable jobs become nonemployed or employed in worse jobs. The average effects mask significant heterogeneity by industry and demographic group, including substantive adverse effects for older, low-skilled workers in manufacturing. We also find some evidence that the same changes improve job opportunities for higher-skilled workers. The findings imply that groups often ignored in the minimum wage literature are in fact quite vulnerable to employment changes and job loss because of automation following a minimum wage increase.

Suggested Citation

  • Grace Lordan & David Neumark, 2017. "People Versus Machines: The Impact of Minimum Wages on Automatable Jobs," NBER Working Papers 23667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23667
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    Cited by:

    1. Meier, Benjamin & Shadle, Kyrstin & Kreider, Brent E. & Orazem, Peter F, 2018. "Minimum Wages and Occupational Skills Acquired During High School," ISU General Staff Papers 201802260800001037, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy

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