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Upstairs, Downstairs: Computer-Skill Complementarity and Computer-Labor Substitution on Two Floors of a Large Bank

Author

Listed:
  • David H. Autor
  • Frank Levy
  • Richard Murnane

Abstract

We describe how a single technological innovation, the introduction of image processing of checks, led to distinctly different changes in the structure of jobs in two departments of a large bank overseen by one group of managers. In the downstairs deposit processing department, image processing led to the substitution of computers for high school educated labor in accomplishing core tasks and in greater specialization in the jobs that remained. In the upstairs exceptions processing department, image processing led to the integration of tasks, with an associated increase in the demand for particular skills. The case illustrates the interdependence of technological change and organizational change. It suggests that seeing the whole picture' and associated conceptual and problem-solving skills are made more valuable by information technologies. Finally, it underscores that the short-term consequences of technological changes may depend importantly on regulatory forces.

Suggested Citation

  • David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard Murnane, 2000. "Upstairs, Downstairs: Computer-Skill Complementarity and Computer-Labor Substitution on Two Floors of a Large Bank," NBER Working Papers 7890, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7890
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Erik Brynjolfsson & Loren Hitt & Shinkyu Yang, 2002. "Intangible Assets: How the Interaction of Computers and Organizational Structure Affects Stock Market Valuations," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 33(1), pages 137-198.
    2. Ganna Vakhitova & Christopher R. Bollinger, 2011. "Labor Market Return to Computer Skills: Using Microsoft Certification to Measure Computer Skills," Discussion Papers 46, Kyiv School of Economics.
    3. Edward N. Wolff, 2005. "Computerization and Rising Unemployment Duration," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 507-536, Fall.
    4. Lex Borghans & Bas ter Weel, 2011. "Computers, skills and wages," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(29), pages 4607-4622.
    5. David H. Autor, 2001. "Wiring the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(1), pages 25-40, Winter.
    6. Ann Bartel & Richard Freeman & Casey Ichniowski & Morris M. Kleiner, 2003. "Can a Work Organization Have an Attitude Problem? The Impact of Workplaces on Employee Attitudes and Economic Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 9987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Cindy Zoghi & Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia, 2007. "Which workers gain upon adopting a computer?," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 40(2), pages 423-444, May.
    8. Richard B. Freeman, 2002. "The Labour Market in the New Information Economy," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(3), pages 288-305.
    9. Chris N. Sakellariou & Harry A. Patrinos, 2004. "Technology, computers and wages: evidence from a developing economy," Brussels Economic Review, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles, vol. 47(3-4), pages 543-543.
    10. Levenson, Alec & Zoghi, Cindy, 2007. "The Strength of Occupation Indicators as a Proxy for Skill," Working Papers 404, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    11. Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia & Cindy Zoghi, 2004. "Which Workers Gain from Computer Use?," Working Papers 373, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    12. Luca Casolaro & Giorgio Gobbi, 2004. "Information technology and productivity changes in the Italian banking industry," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 489, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    13. Carlsson, Bo, 2004. "The Digital Economy: what is new and what is not?," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 245-264, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights

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