Task Specialization in U.S. Cities from 1880-2000

49 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2013 Last revised: 20 Feb 2022

See all articles by Guy Michaels

Guy Michaels

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP); London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Ferdinand Rauch

University of Oxford

Stephen J. Redding

Princeton University

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Date Written: January 2013

Abstract

We develop a new methodology for quantifying the tasks undertaken within occupations using over 3,000 verbs from more than 12,000 occupational descriptions in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOTs). Using micro-data from the United States from 1880-2000, we find an increase in the employment share of interactive occupations within sectors over time that is larger in metro areas than non-metro areas. We interpret these findings using a model in which reductions in transport and communication costs induce urban areas to specialize according to their comparative advantage in interactive tasks. We presenting suggestive evidence relating increases in employment in interactive occupations to improvements in transport and communication technologies. Our findings highlight a change in the nature of agglomeration over time towards an increased emphasis on human interaction.

Suggested Citation

Michaels, Guy and Michaels, Guy and Rauch, Ferdinand and Redding, Stephen J., Task Specialization in U.S. Cities from 1880-2000 (January 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18715, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2202653

Guy Michaels (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Ferdinand Rauch

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Stephen J. Redding

Princeton University ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~reddings/

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