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Taking technology to task: The skill content of technological change in early twentieth century United States

Gray, Rowena (2013) 'Taking technology to task: The skill content of technological change in early twentieth century United States.' Explorations in Economic History, 50 (3). pp. 351-367. ISSN 0014-4983

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Abstract

This paper uses new data on the task content of occupations to present a new picture of the labor market effects of technological change in pre-WWII United States. I show that, similar to the recent computerization episode, the electrification of the manufacturing sector led to a "hollowing out" of the skill distribution whereby workers in the middle of the distribution lost out to those at the extremes. OLS estimates show that electrification increased the demand for clerical, numerical, planning and people skills relative to manual skills while simultaneously reducing relative demand for the dexterity-intensive jobs which comprised the middle of the skill distribution. Thus, early twentieth century technological change was unskill-biased for blue collar tasks but skill-biased on aggregate. These results are in line with the downward trend in wage differentials within U.S. manufacturing up to 1950. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Technological change; Skill bias; Electrification
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Economics, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2012 22:20
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 13:51
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/2873

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