People Versus Machines: The Impact of Minimum Wages on Automatable Jobs
44 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2017 Last revised: 3 Mar 2022
Date Written: August 2017
We study the effect of minimum wage increases on employment in automatable jobs – jobs in which employers may find it easier to substitute machines for people – focusing on low-skilled workers for whom such substitution may be spurred by minimum wage increases. Based on CPS data from 1980-2015, we find that increasing the minimum wage decreases significantly the share of automatable employment held by low-skilled workers, and increases the likelihood that low-skilled workers in automatable jobs become nonemployed or employed in worse jobs. The average effects mask significant heterogeneity by industry and demographic group, including substantive adverse effects for older, low-skilled workers in manufacturing. We also find some evidence that the same changes improve job opportunities for higher-skilled workers. The findings imply that groups often ignored in the minimum wage literature are in fact quite vulnerable to employment changes and job loss because of automation following a minimum wage increase.
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