IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration

  • David H. Autor
  • Frank Levy
  • Richard J. Murnane

We apply an understanding of what computers do -- the execution of procedural or rules-based logic -- to study how computer technology alters job skill demands. We contend that computer capital (1) substitutes for a limited and well-defined set of human activities, those involving routine (repetitive) cognitive and manual tasks; and (2) complements activities involving non-routine problem solving and interactive tasks. Provided these tasks are imperfect substitutes, our model implies measurable changes in the task content of employment, which we explore using representative data on job task requirements over 1960 -- 1998. Computerization is associated with declining relative industry demand for routine manual and cognitive tasks and increased relative demand for non-routine cognitive tasks. Shifts are evident within detailed industries, within detailed occupations, and within education groups within industries. Translating observed task shifts into educational demands, the sum of within-industry and within-occupation task changes explains thirty to forty percent of the observed relative demand shift favoring college versus non-college labor during 1970 to 1998, with the largest impact felt after 1980. Changes in task content within nominally identical occupations explain more than half of the overall demand shift induced by computerization.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8337.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8337.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: Jun 2001
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Autor, David, Frank Levy, and Richard Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Nov. 7-8, 2003.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8337
Note: LS PR
Contact details of provider: Postal:
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page: http://www.nber.org
Email:


More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Machin, Stephen, 1997. "Implications of Skill-Biased Technological Change: International Evidence," Working Paper Series 486, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  2. Jorgenson, D.W. & Stiroh, K., 1994. "Computers abd Growth," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1707, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. Ann P. Bartel & Nachum Sicherman, 1997. "Technological Change and Wages: An Inter-Industry Analysis," NBER Working Papers 5941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2002. "Upstairs, Downstairs: Computers and Skills on Two Floors of a Large Bank," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(3), pages 432-447, April.
  5. A. D. Roy, 1951. "Some Thoughts On The Distribution Of Earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 135-146.
  6. Bresnahan, Timothy F, 1999. "Computerisation and Wage Dispersion: An Analytical Reinterpretation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(456), pages F390-415, June.
  7. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
  8. 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.
  9. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213.
  11. Michael J. Handel, 2000. "Trends in Direct Measures of Job Skill Requirements," Macroeconomics 0004048, EconWPA.
  12. Acemoglu, Daron, 1996. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 1459, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. George E. Johnson, 1997. "Changes in Earnings Inequality: The Role of Demand Shifts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 41-54, Spring.
  14. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1993. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing Industries: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 4255, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Richard R. Nelson & Edmond S. Phelps, 1965. "Investment in Humans, Technological Diffusion and Economic Growth," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 189, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  16. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
  17. Jin Huem Park, 1994. "Estimation of Sheepskin Effects and Returns to Schooling Using he Old and the New CPS Measures of Educational Attainment," Working Papers 717, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  18. Eve Caroli & John Van Reenen, 2001. "Skill-Biased Organizational Change? Evidence from A Panel of British and French Establishments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1449-1492.
  19. Jaeger, David A, 1997. "Reconciling the Old and New Census Bureau Education Questions: Recommendations for Researchers," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 15(3), pages 300-309, July.
  20. David Thesmar & Mathias Thoenig, 2000. "Creative Destruction and Firm Organization Choice," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-00485579, HAL.
  21. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1996. "The Origins of Technology-Skill Complementarity," NBER Working Papers 5657, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Ingram, Beth F. & Neumann, George R., 2006. "The returns to skill," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 35-59, February.
  23. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2002. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization, and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 339-376.
  24. Borghans, Lex & ter Weel, Bas, 2007. "The diffusion of computers and the distribution of wages," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 715-748, April.
  25. repec:dau:papers:123456789/10093 is not listed on IDEAS
  26. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J., 1999. "Multi-Task Learning and the Reorganization of Work. From Tayloristic to Holistic Organization," IZA Discussion Papers 39, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  27. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
  28. Chinhui Juhn, 1999. "Wage Inequality and Demand for Skill: Evidence from Five Decades," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(3), pages 424-443, April.
  29. repec:fth:prinin:338 is not listed on IDEAS
  30. Griliches, Zvi, 1969. "Capital-Skill Complementarity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(4), pages 465-68, November.
  31. Kevin M. Murphy & W. Craig Riddell & Paul M. Romer, 1998. "Wages, Skills, and Technology in the United States and Canada," NBER Working Papers 6638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  32. Stephen Machin & John Van Reenen, 1998. "Technology and changes in skill structure: evidence from seven OECD countries," IFS Working Papers W98/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  33. James Heckman & Lance Lochner & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Explaining Rising Wage Inequality: Explanations With A Dynamic General Equilibrium Model of Labor Earnings With Heterogeneous Agents," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(1), pages 1-58, January.
  34. Berndt, Ernst R. & Morrison, Catherine J., 1992. "High-tech capital formation and economic performance in U.S. manufacturing industries : an exploratory analysis," Working papers 3419-92., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  35. Luis Garicano, 2000. "Hierarchies and the Organization of Knowledge in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 874-904, October.
  36. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  37. Finis Welch, 2000. "Growth in Women's Relative Wages and in Inequality among Men: One Phenomenon or Two?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 444-449, May.
  38. Michael J. Handel, 2000. "Trends in Direct Measures of Job Skill Requirements," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_301, Levy Economics Institute.
  39. Welch, F, 1970. "Education in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(1), pages 35-59, Jan.-Feb..
  40. Francesco Caselli, 1999. "Technological Revolutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 78-102, March.
  41. Mark Doms & Timothy Dunne & Kenneth R. Troske, 1997. "Workers, Wages, and Technology," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 253-290.
  42. Kevin M. Murphy & Finis Welch, 1992. "The Structure of Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 285-326.
  43. Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2000. "Beyond Computation: Information Technology, Organizational Transformation and Business Performance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 23-48, Fall.
  44. Borghans,L. & Weel,B.,ter, 2001. "What happens when agent T gets a computer?," ROA Research Memorandum 004, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
  45. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  46. Markus Mobius & Raphael Schoenle, 2006. "The Evolution of Work," NBER Working Papers 12694, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  47. repec:pri:indrel:338 is not listed on IDEAS
  48. Surendra Gera & Wulong Gu & Zhengxi Lin, 2001. "Technology and the demand for skills in Canada: an industry-level analysis," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 34(1), pages 132-148, February.
  49. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
  50. Bartel, Ann P & Lichtenberg, Frank R, 1987. "The Comparative Advantage of Educated Workers in Implementing New Technology," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(1), pages 1-11, February.
  51. Daron Acemoglu, 1998. "Why Do New Technologies Complement Skills? Directed Technical Change and Wage Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1055-1089.
  52. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U. S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-397.
  53. William D. Nordhaus, 2001. "The Progress of Computing," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1324, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  54. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1996. "With What Skills Are Computers a Complement?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 258-62, May.
  55. Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn Shaw, 2003. "Beyond Incentive Pay: Insiders' Estimates of the Value of Complementary Human Resource Management Practices," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 155-180, Winter.
  56. Kevin J. Stiroh & Dale W. Jorgenson, 1999. "Information Technology and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 109-115, May.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8337. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.