Work of the Past, Work of the Future
AbstractUS cities today are vastly more educated and skill-intensive than they were five decades ago. Yet, urban non-college workers perform substantially less skilled jobs than decades earlier. This deskilling reflects the joint effects of automation and, secondarily, rising international trade, which have eliminated the bulk of non-college production, administrative support, and clerical jobs, yielding a disproportionate polarization of urban labor markets. The unwinding of the urban non-college occupational skill gradient has, I argue, abetted a secular fall in real non-college wages by: (1) shunting non-college workers out of specialized middle-skill occupations into low-wage occupations that require only generic skills; (2) diminishing the set of non-college workers that hold middle-skill jobs in high-wage cities; and (3) attenuating, to a startling degree, the steep urban wage premium for non-college workers that prevailed in earlier decades. Changes in the nature of work—many of which are technological in origin—have been more disruptive and less beneficial for non-college than college workers.
CitationAutor, David H. 2019. "Work of the Past, Work of the Future." AEA Papers and Proceedings, 109: 1-32. DOI: 10.1257/pandp.20191110
- J24 Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
- O33 Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
- R23 Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics: Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population; Neighborhood Characteristics