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Naval Engineering and Labor Specialization during the Industrial Revolution

Author

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  • Darrell J. Glaser

    () (United States Naval Academy)

  • Ahmed S. Rahman

    () (United States Naval Academy)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Darrell J. Glaser & Ahmed S. Rahman, 2012. "Naval Engineering and Labor Specialization during the Industrial Revolution," Departmental Working Papers 38, United States Naval Academy Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:usn:usnawp:38
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    File URL: http://www.usna.edu/EconDept/RePEc/usn/wp/usnawp38.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. J. Glaser, Darrell & S. Rahman, Ahmed, 2011. "Human Capital and Technological Transition: Insights from the U.S. Navy," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 71(03), pages 704-729, September.
    2. Michael Kremer, 1993. "The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 551-575.
    3. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
    4. Aimee Chin & Chinhui Juhn & Peter Thompson, 2006. "Technical Change and the Demand for Skills during the Second Industrial Revolution: Evidence from the Merchant Marine, 1891-1912," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 572-578, August.
    5. Kim, Sunwoong & Mohtadi, Hamid, 1992. "Labor Specialization and Endogenous Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 404-408, May.
    6. Darrell J. Glaser & Ahmed S. Rahman, 2012. "Technical Human Capital and Job Mobility in an Era of Rapid Technological Innovation," Departmental Working Papers 37, United States Naval Academy Department of Economics.
    7. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1998. "The Origins of Technology-Skill Complementarity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 693-732.
    8. Kim, Sunwoong, 1989. "Labor Specialization and the Extent of the Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 692-705, June.
    9. Hadfield, Gillian K., 1999. "A coordination model of the sexual division of labor," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 125-153, October.
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