AI and Jobs: The Role of Demand

27 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2017

See all articles by James E. Bessen

James E. Bessen

Technology & Policy Research Initiative, BU School of Law

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Date Written: November 28, 2017


In manufacturing, technology has sharply reduced jobs in recent decades. But before that, for over a century, employment grew, even in industries experiencing rapid technological change. What changed? Demand was highly elastic at first and then became inelastic. The effect of artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs will similarly depend critically on the nature of demand. This paper presents a simple model of demand that accurately predicts the rise and fall of employment in the textile, steel, and automotive industries. This model provides a useful framework for exploring how AI is likely to affect jobs over the next 10 or 20 years.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence, automation, technical change, sectoral growth, labor demand, computer technology, deindustrialization

JEL Classification: J2, O3, N10

Suggested Citation

Bessen, James E., AI and Jobs: The Role of Demand (November 28, 2017). Boston Univ. School of Law, Law and Economics Research Paper No. 17-46, Available at SSRN: or

James E. Bessen (Contact Author)

Technology & Policy Research Initiative, BU School of Law ( email )

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