Naval Engineering and Labor Specialization during the Industrial Revolution
This paper explores the roles of capital- and technology-skill complementarities in labor allocation decisions within the U.S. Navy. During the latter 19th century the ocer corps was highly specialized, and was split between groups of line and sta ocers. This was also a time of dramatic technological changes which a ected nearly every facet of naval opera- tions. Speci cally, naval technological developments tended to be \engineering-biased," in that they raised the relative importance of engineer-oriented skills. This created a dilemma for the Navy, as it navigated the balance between the bene ts of a specialized workforce implementing increasingly complex technologies with rising communication and coordina- tion costs. We rst document the extent of capital- and technology-skill complementarities within the navy which fostered greater labor specialization. We then show how the Navy vitiated the specialized human capital of ocers by blending the corps. The study o ers in- sights into how an industry undergoing wrenching technological changes managed its labor and human capital allocation to help the U.S. become a world class naval power.
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