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Automation: Theory, Evidence, and Outlook


  • Pascual Restrepo


This article reviews the literature on automation and its impact on labor markets, wages, factor shares, and productivity. I first introduce the task model and explain why this framework offers a compelling way to think about recent labor market trends and the effects of automation technologies. The task model clarifies that automation technologies operate by substituting capital for labor in a widening range of tasks. This substitution reduces costs, creating a positive productivity effect, but also reduces employment opportunities for workers displaced from automated tasks, creating a negative displacement effect. I survey the empirical literature and conclude that there is wide qualitative support for the implications of task models and the displacement effects of automation. I conclude by discussing shortcomings of the existing literature and avenues for future research.

Suggested Citation

  • Pascual Restrepo, 2023. "Automation: Theory, Evidence, and Outlook," NBER Working Papers 31910, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:31910
    Note: EFG

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    Cited by:

    1. Ann Harrison, 2024. "Disentangling Various Explanations for the Declining Labor Share: Evidence from Millions of Firm Records," NBER Working Papers 32015, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Giovanni Dosi & Marcelo C. Pereira & Andrea Roventini & Maria Enrica Virgillito, 2024. "The political economy of complex evolving systems: the case of declining unionization and rising inequalities," LEM Papers Series 2024/13, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    3. Armanda Cetrulo & Dario Guarascio & Maria Enrica Virgillito, 2024. "Two neglected origins of inequality: hierarchical power and care work," LEM Papers Series 2024/04, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General

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