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Changes in Occupations and Jobs

Paper Session

Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM (PST)

Marriott Marquis, Presidio 2
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Peter McHenry, College of William and Mary

Occupational Mobility in a Changing Labor Market: Upward Climbs or Crooked Paths?

Shulamit Kahn
,
Boston University
Alicia Modestino
,
Northeastern University
Yeseul Hyun
,
Boston University

Abstract

Recent labor market trends make it increasingly likely that U.S. workers will need to adapt to changing skill requirements during their careers. For some workers, adaptation may require changing occupations as labor market polarization arising from automation, outsourcing, or skill-biased technological change reduces the demand for routine manual and cognitive skills. Yet little is known about the career trajectories of different types of workers due to a lack of longitudinal data with sufficiently large sample sizes. Using a novel dataset of 23 million resumes collected from U.S. recruitment, staffing, and workforce agencies and job boards by Burning Glass Technologies, we study occupational transitions over the course of individual careers. Exploratory analyses indicate that each year (2002-2018), 9% of individuals transition across six-digit occupations; of these, three-quarters also transition across two-digit occupations. In comparison, annual occupational mobility estimates from the literature range from 4% using the CPS to measure six-digit transitions in the 2000s (Molloy et al. Demography 2017) to 21% using the PSID to measure three-digit transitions (Kambourov and Manovskii JPubE 2009) in the 1990s. We go beyond calculating annual transition rates to measure occupational mobility paths over longer periods based on the longitudinal listing of jobs on each resume. Additional information parsed from the resumes will be used to determine the degree to which these occupational transitions occur in conjunction with obtaining additional training or education (e.g., certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or advanced degree) and whether this changed over time as distance learning expanded. We then test whether the frequency or nature of occupational transitions vary across gender, age cohort, region, initial occupation and industry, level of education when entering the labor market, and business cycles. Understanding the frequency and nature of occupational transitions may help guide workforce development policy aimed at re-training workers displaced by technological change.

Tasks and Technology: The Labor Market Effects of Innovation

Matthias Parey
,
University of Surrey

Abstract

This paper provides new evidence on the effect of innovation on employment and wage outcomes for workers in the US over the period 1980-2016. For this purpose, the paper develops a task-based view of innovation. Technologies are mapped to worker tasks, using a text analysis approach based on information from patents. This allows to link specific occupations to specific technologies. I then study the labor market effects of innovation. I find that employment among low-skill occupations declines in response to innovation. At the same time, high-skill occupations experience significant wage increases, and these are found to be particularly pronounced among professional workers. The results suggest that technological advances play an important role in driving increases in inequality observed over recent decades. The paper presents a detailed sensitivity and subgroup analysis.

The Impact of the Retirement Slowdown on the United States Youth Labor Market

Paul Mohnen
,
University of Michigan

Abstract

Employment among older Americans has sharply risen since the mid-1990s, particularly in high-skill jobs. How has this skill-biased labor supply increase affected other participants in the labor market, and new entrants in particular? Using an instrumental variables approach exploiting variation in the age composition of the old across U.S. commuting zones primarily driven by historical birth patterns, this paper explores the impact of retirement trends on youth employment outcomes over the period 1980-2017. I find that in commuting zones where fewer older workers retire due to the initial age structure, the share of younger workers in high-skill jobs declines while the share of younger workers in low-skill jobs increases. Occupational downgrading among the young also manifests itself through a rise in the share of younger workers who have higher educational attainment than their job typically requires. In addition, I find evidence of rising unemployment and declining wages among the young, who partly adjust to deteriorating labor market prospects via greater school attendance and net out-migration. Together, the results suggest that the retirement slowdown has contributed to stagnant early career outcomes in recent decades.

The Fracking Boom, Local Labor Market Opportunities, and College Attainment

Elijah Neilson
,
Clemson University

Abstract

This paper examines the college educational, earnings, and employment responses to local labor demand shocks brought about by recent innovations in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. I find that a boom in fracking production within a county causes a reduction in college enrollment rates at four-year institutions, an increase in earnings, and an increase in employment for both men and women, with stronger effects for men. The decline in college enrollment during a boom is largely reversed as fracking production slows within a county. Educational attainment, however, remains persistently low for cohorts who experience the biggest enrollment declines. Workers who never attend college experience relatively larger earnings and employment gains, when compared to college-educated workers. These findings reveal that fracking-induced shifts in labor demand raise the opportunity cost of, and reduce the relative returns to, college.

Worker Beliefs and the Job Application Decision: A Lab-in-the-Field Experiment on Gender and Sorting

Kristine Koutout
,
Vanderbilt University

Abstract

One of the largest measured contributing factors to the gender wage gap is sorting across industries (Blau & Kahn, 2017). Worker's beliefs about other people's beliefs--- second-order beliefs--- may lead to this sorting behavior through the job application decision. To study how second-order beliefs affect workers' job application decisions, I combine a natural field experiment with a structured online lab experiment. In the field experiment, I solicit applications for a real high-paying white-collar job using different ads that vary the relevant second-order belief. Then, I invite participants in the field experiment to an online lab experiment that elicits their beliefs using the methodology developed by my co-authors and I in Dustan, Koutout, & Leo (2019). The position I am recruiting for is an outside business to business sales position, so I elicit workers' beliefs about the beliefs of their future manager and the beliefs of their future customers regarding the relative sales ability of men and women. By measuring these beliefs in the same population as the job application decision, I am able to present the first evidence on how second-order beliefs affect labor market behavior. I also provide the first measurement of second-order beliefs outside of an undergraduate student population.

Workers’ Task and Employer Mobility over the Business Cycle

Carlos Carrillo-Tudela
,
University of Essex
Fraser Summerfield
,
St. Francis Xavier University
Ludo Visschers
,
University of Edinburgh

Abstract

This paper examines how the business cycle affects the extent and magnitude of career changes, by measuring differences between the task portfolios of workers before and after job transitions. We separately document task transitions of workers that change employer with (EUE) and without (EE) intervening unemployment spells. Transitions are examined in the Canadian Labour Force Survey spanning 1987-2015, which features consistent occupation coding and relatively reliable measures of employer and occupational change. The business cycle affects the task mobility of EE and EUE movers differently. In recessions, EE transitions move workers into jobs involving more cognitive tasks while EUE transitions move workers away from these jobs, into occupations with more low-level physical tasks. The overall total task distance of EUE changes is procyclical, but appears acyclical for EE movers. The differing cyclical task patterns can inform us about the different forces and considerations that are driving EE and EUE mobility over the cycle, which remain hidden behind a shared procyclicality of EE and EUE mobility rates.
JEL Classifications
  • J2 - Demand and Supply of Labor